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Marc Debus, "Office and Policy Payoffs in Coalition Governments," Party Politics, 14 (September, 2008), 515-538.

First paragraph:
Which parties, if any, in a multiparty system have to be considered as key players in the legislative game? Many coalition theories define key parties that have superior power in terms of coalition formation. Peleg's (1981) dominant player, for instance, should become a member of the government because of his seat strength in parliament, whereas the central player (van Deemen, 1991; van Roozendaal, 1993) holds a pivotal position due to the inclusion of the median legislator. However, nothing is said about the bargaining power of such key coalition game players. Do such parties assert their policy and office preferences better than their coalition partners do? And, furthermore, does capturing a surpassing share of offices imply that this party also has a strong showing for implementing its policy preferences? In this article, a modification of two seminal models - the portfolio allocation model (Laver and Shepsle, 1990, 1996) and the political heart model (Schofield, 1986, 1993, 1995, 1996) - is used to define key players in the coalition game. Building on this definition of key players, the office and policy assertion capacity of such key parties in coalition governments is evaluated, first, by looking at the share of cabinet offices each party actually gets. Second, the policy positions of pre-electoral party manifestos are contrasted with those of post-electoral coalition agreements. The results suggest that key parties indeed have more capacity to assert their policy preferences than the remaining parties in a coalition government. In terms of offices, however, key players have not been able to capture a disproportionate share of cabinet offices.

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. Two ideological party constellations with and without a strong party
Figure 2. Example of a political heart (Belgium 1978
Table 1. Covered government formations and number of analysed policy documents
Table 2. Evaluation of the modified strong party and heart solution regarding coalition formation (predictions in line with the model
Table 3. Office and policy payoffs of modified strong parties when participating in a coalition government
Table 4. Party closest to the coalition agreement by strong and large parties
Table 5. Office and policy payoffs of parties in the modified heart solution

First paragraph of Conclusion:
In this article, I have used the portfolio allocation and political heart models to define key players in the coalition game. The expectation is that a key player should, first, become a member of the next government and, second, should receive a surpassing share of office goods and have more influence on policy. While the modified strong party concept allows only for predictions whether a strong player exists, which was the case in 28 of the 39 government-formation processes covered here, the modified heart solution enables estimation of the composition of the next government in all cases. Furthermore, while the predicted modified strong party did not always become a member of the next government, the modified heart solution correctly predicted the partisan structure of the future (coalition) government in all cases.

Last updated August 2008