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Jonathan Boston and David Bullock, "Multi-party governance: Managing the unity-distinctiveness dilemma in executive coalitions" Party Politics, 18 (May, 2012), 349-368. [Available at ]

First paragraph:
In parliamentary democracies where no single party commands a legislative majority, coalitions - whether governmental and/or legislative in nature - are necessary in order to form a legitimate government.1 Such 'coalitions' can take many forms and are best described as 'multi-party governance arrangements' (Boston and Bullock, 2009). Their varied nature, both over time and between countries, reflects differences in bargaining environments, including constitutional rules and conventions, the character of the party system, the parliamentary arithmetic and parties' preferences and commitments.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Seat distribution after the New Zealand general elections since 1993
Table 2. New Zealand's multi-party governance arrangements under MMP
Table 3. The strengths and weaknesses of different modes of inter-party discipline

Last Paragraph:
New Zealand's experiments with multi-party governance since the mid-1990s highlight that innovative solutions to the unity-distinctiveness dilemma are possible under certain political conditions, but also that all solutions are constrained by prevailing constitutional rules and political norms. Even where major parties agree to provide significant opportunities for public dissent - as in the 2005 and 2008 hybrid arrangements - there are strong political pressures for governing parties to 'sing the same song' and, moreover, to 'sing in tune'. These pressures arise partly from the unanimity principle and its underlying notion of reciprocity: parties enjoying the benefits of office, and expecting support for their favoured policy positions from their 'coalition' partners, are obliged to share the responsibilities of office and provide support for their coalition partners in achieving their political objectives. Equally, governments that constantly bicker seem destined to lose political credibility (and hence votes); they will also have difficulty realizing their collective purposes. Despite these limits, hybrid arrangements have proved attractive in New Zealand - to major and minor parties alike. It remains uncertain, however, whether this support will endure in the face of evolving political circumstances and parliamentary dynamics, and whether other jurisdictions will embrace similar arrangements.

Last updated August 2012