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The Political Dynamics of Portfolio Design in European Democracies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 September 2019

Ulrich Sieberer
Affiliation:
Department of Political Science, University of Bamberg, Germany
Thomas M. Meyer*
Affiliation:
Department of Government, University of Vienna, Austria
Hanna Bäck
Affiliation:
Department of Political Science, University of Lund, Sweden
Andrea Ceron
Affiliation:
Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Milan, Italy
Albert Falcó-Gimeno
Affiliation:
Department of Political Science, Constitutional Law and Philosophy of Law, University of Barcelona, Spain
Isabelle Guinaudeau
Affiliation:
Centre Emile Durkheim, Sciences Po Bordeaux, France
Martin Ejnar Hansen
Affiliation:
Department of Social and Political Sciences, Brunel University London, UK
Kristoffer Kolltveit
Affiliation:
Department of Political Science, University of Oslo, Norway
Tom Louwerse
Affiliation:
Institute of Political Science, Leiden University, The Netherlands
Wolfgang C. Müller
Affiliation:
Department of Government, University of Vienna, Austria
Thomas Persson
Affiliation:
Department of Government, Uppsala University, Sweden
*
*Corresponding author. E-mail: thomas.meyer@univie.ac.at

Abstract

The design of government portfolios – that is, the distribution of competencies among government ministries and office holders – has been largely ignored in the study of executive and coalition politics. This article argues that portfolio design is a substantively and theoretically relevant phenomenon that has major implications for the study of institutional design and coalition politics. The authors use comparative data on portfolio design reforms in nine Western European countries since the 1970s to demonstrate how the design of government portfolios changes over time. Specifically, they show that portfolios are changed frequently (on average about once a year) and that such shifts are more likely after changes in the prime ministership or the party composition of the government. These findings suggest a political logic behind these reforms based on the preferences and power of political parties and politicians. They have major implications for the study of institutional design and coalition politics.

Type
Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019

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