Soest, Germany – August 3, 2019: Free Democratic Party (German: Freie Demokratische Partei, FDP) logo

2020 | Heike Klüver and Jae-Jae Spoon

Helping or hurting? How governing as a junior coalition partner influences electoral outcomes

Does joining a governing coalition as a junior partner influence a party’s subsequent electoral success?

We argue that joining a multiparty cabinet as a junior partner considerably hurts a party’s future electoral prospects as junior partners cannot enact much of what they promised before the election and since they cannot sufficiently differentiate themselves from their larger coalition partner. To test our theoretical expectations comparatively and over time, we have compiled a comprehensive data set on the electoral performance of 307 political parties running in 219 elections in twenty-eight European countries from 1972 to 2017. To shed light on the underlying causal mechanisms, we additionally provide empirical evidence from an illustrative case study showing that the inability to deliver on election promises and a large degree of misperception among voters are important drivers of junior coalition parties’ electoral losses. Our findings provide important insights into the relationship between coalition governments and electoral competition.

Photo: Lutsenko_Oleksandr / Shutterstock / Soest, Germany – August 3, 2019: Free Democratic Party (German: Freie Demokratische Partei, FDP) logo

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