The Cost of Coalition Compromise: The Electoral Effects of Holding Salient Portfolios

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Party Politics

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This article highlights the electoral effects of holding salient portfolios within a coalition government. For voters, holding ministries can be seen as a symbol of a party’s success within the coalition. As a voting heuristic, parties not controlling the portfolios on issues important to their platforms signal their failure to achieve these goals. Following this perspective, we hypothesize that the difference between coalition parties that hold salient portfolios and those that do not partially predicts the extent of the electoral cost of coalition participation. Using a data set that covers 11 European parliamentary democracies between 1966 and 2002, we show that for junior coalition partners there is an electoral reward for holding their most salient portfolio. There is also an electoral benefit for a junior partner to hold a larger number of portfolios if they do not control their most salient portfolio. Conversely, holding their most salient portfolio and a larger number of additional ministries results in greater electoral losses in the subsequent parliamentary election. These results indicate that parties’ success at negotiating for their policy priorities in coalition governments holds consequences for their future electoral success.


Coalition Governance; Elections; Issue Salience; Policy Accountability; Policy Responsiveness; Portfolio Allocation


Comparative Politics | Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences



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