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Coalition Bargaining Duration in Multiparty Democracies


Why do some government formation periods end after a few days, while others last for several weeks or even months? Despite the rich literature on government formation, surprisingly little is known about the underlying bargaining processes. This article introduces a new dataset on 303 bargaining attempts in nineteen European democracies to analyse the duration of individual bargaining rounds. The study hypothesizes that (1) preference tangentiality, (2) ideological proximity, (3) incumbency and (4) party leadership tenure decrease the duration of coalition bargaining. Employing a copula approach to account for the non-random selection process of the observations, it shows that these actor-specific factors matter in addition to systemic context factors such as post-election bargaining and party system complexity. These findings highlight the need to consider both actor-specific and systemic factors of the bargaining context to explain government formation.

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Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (email:; Department of Government, University of Vienna (email: We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) (grant P25490-G22) for the research project on ‘Coalition governance in Central Eastern Europe’. We thank the anonymous reviewers, our panellists at the 2015 APSA Annual Meeting, the 2016 EPSA Annual Conference, and the workshop on ‘New Developments in Cabinet Coalition Research’ in Rome, and seminar participants at the Universities of Vienna and Berlin for valuable comments and suggestions. We also thank Hannah Kieblspeck and Michael Imre for excellent research assistance. Replication data files are available in Harvard Dataverse at: and online appendices are available at

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