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José Fernández-Albertos and Víctor Lapuente, "Doomed to disagree? Party-voter discipline and policy gridlock under divided government," Party Politics, 17 (November, 2011), 801-822. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol17/issue6/ ]

First paragraph:
Why do veto players often reject policy proposals that, ideologically, they prefer to the status quo? In divided government settings, it is common for policy proposals to be systematically blocked by veto players, even if, on ideological grounds, these veto players prefer those policies to the status quo.1 President Vicente Fox of Mexico, for example, was unable to pass major fiscal reforms that would increase state revenues, because he did not enjoy a majority in Congress, albeit the opposition parties might also have preferred a higher level of taxes and revenues. In Germany, attempts by the red-green governing coalition (1996-2006) to lower taxes and reform social security were defeated in the Christian-Democrat-controlled Bundesrat, even though, ideologically, these reforms should have been welcomed by the centre-right opposition. Observers have singled out electoral considerations as being responsible for this puzzling behaviour on the part of veto players. Indeed, it seems that in presidential systems presidents' legislative coalitions around their policy platforms are much more unstable as the next election approaches (Altman, 2000). But why are those perverse electoral incentives more prevalent in some contexts than in others?

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. Party positions and voters' preferences in the presidential or first-order election issue
Figure 2. Party positions and voters' preferences in the legislative or second-order election issue
Figure 3. Voters' preferences determining the outcome of the presidential election
Figure 4. Set-up for the simulations
Figure 5. Equilibrium policies as a function of party institutionalization (a) and residual ( ). (Shaded area represents the ideological Pareto frontier)
Figure 6. Equilibrium policy as a function of a and . (Shaded area represents ideological Pareto frontier)
Figure 7. Differences in parties' vote-shares across elections in 10 Latin American democracies, 1980-96, national-level data. Source: Mainwaring (1999)
Figure 8. Vote-shares in congressional and presidential elections for Mexican (PRI, PAN) and Brazilian (PT, PSDB) parties
Figure 9. Ideal policy points and expected and observed outcome in the Mexican tax reform
Figure 10. Difference in vote-shares at the state level between Mexican congressional and presidential elections, 2006
Figure 11. Ideal policy points and final outcome in the Brazilian Plano Real
 

Last Paragraph:
(First paragraph of conclusions) In this article we have attempted to explain why some policies favoured by all relevant political actors are not adopted in certain divided government settings. We argue that one key factor accounting for bargaining failure between veto players when mutually beneficial policies exist is the degree of party-voter discipline. First, this article has shown analytically why party-voter discipline might create problems for effective policymaking in situations of divided government. Because strong parties homogenize the way people vote across different electoral arenas, voters are unable to hold each branch of government accountable independently of each other. As a result, the multiple veto players that coexist in systems with separation of powers develop incentives to block welfare-enhancing proposals in order to maximize their electoral prospects in the future.

Last updated December 2011