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Parties Getting Impatient: Time Out of Office and Portfolio Allocation in Coalition Governments

  • Albert Falcó-Gimeno


This article argues that long periods out of office make parties impatient and more willing to make concessions over portfolio allocation in exchange for participation in a coalition cabinet. Two hypotheses are analysed: on the one hand, being in opposition for a long time should put parties at a disadvantage when bargaining over office payoffs. On the other, this effect should not apply to the formateur party, since formation offers are based on the receivers’ impatience. The empirical results largely support these expectations. Additional evidence of the causality of the main effect is obtained through the use of matching techniques based on the propensity score.



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1 Laver, Michael and Schofield, Norman, Multiparty Government: The Politics of Coalition in Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990).

2 Gamson, William A., ‘A Theory of Coalition Formation’, American Sociological Review, 26 (1961), 373382; and Gamson, William A., ‘An Experimental Test of a Theory of Coalition Formation’, American Sociological Review, 26 (1961), 565573.

3 Druckman, James N. and Warwick, Paul V., ‘The Missing Piece: Measuring Portfolio Salience in Western European Parliamentary Democracies’, European Journal of Political Research, 44 (2005), 1742.

4 Indridi H. Indridason, ‘Live for Today, Hope for Tomorrow? Rethinking Gamson's Law’, ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops, Lisbon, 2009, p. 18.

5 Laver, Michael, ‘Models of Government Formation’, Annual Review of Political Science, 1 (1998), 125, p. 7.

6 See Merlo, Antonio and Wilson, Charles, ‘A Stochastic Model of Sequential Bargaining with Complete Information’, Econometrica, 63 (1995), 371399, for an exception in a more general, formal model of legislative bargaining.

7 Seminal articles by Rubinstein, Ariel, ‘Perfect Equilibrium in a Bargaining Model’, Econometrica, 50 (1982), 97109; and Baron, David P. and Ferejohn, John A., ‘Bargaining in Legislatures’, American Journal of Political Science, 89 (1989), 11811206. Models of alternating offers are to be found in Harrington, Joseph, ‘The Power of the Proposal Maker in a Model of Endogenous Agenda Formation’, Public Choice, 64 (1990), 120; Austen-Smith, David and Banks, Jeffrey, ‘Stable Governments and the Allocation of Portfolios’, American Political Science Review, 84 (1990), 891906; Kalandrakis, Anastassios, ‘A Three-Player Dynamic Majoritarian Bargaining Game’, Journal of Economic Theory, 116 (2004), 294322; Kalandrakis, Tasos, ‘Proposal Rights and Political Power’, American Journal of Political Science, 50 (2006), 441448; Indridason, ‘Live for Today, Hope for Tomorrow?’

8 Hereafter, I will use female gender for the proposer and male for the receivers.

9 In another work related to this one I offer formal proof that this is the case. See Falcó-Gimeno, Albert, ‘Portfolio Allocation and Time Out of Office in Coalition Governments’, Juan March Institute, CEACS Estudio/Working Paper 2011/254 (2011), 1–36.

10 Budge, Ian and Laver, Michael J., ‘Office Seeking and Policy Pursuit in Coalition Theory’, Legislative Studies Quarterly, 11 (1986), 485506.

11 Renshon, Stanley A., ‘Temporal Orientations and Political Life: The Psychology of Political Impatience’, British Journal of Political Science, 7 (1977), 262272, at p. 262.

12 Müller, Wolfgang C. and Strom, Kaare, eds, Policy, Office, or Votes? How Political Parties in Western Europe Make Hard Decisions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 1516.

13 Müller and Strom, Policy, Office, or Votes, pp. 24–25.

14 Müller and Strom, Policy, Office, or Votes, p. 299.

15 Hillebrand, Ron and Irwin, Galen A., ‘Changing Strategies: The Dilemma of the Dutch Labour Party’, in Müller and Strom, eds, Policy, Office, or Votes?, pp. 112140, esp. pp. 124–6.

16 The countries are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France (Fifth Rep.), Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and (West) Germany.

17 This concept first appears in Warwick, Paul V. and Druckman, James N.. ‘The Portfolio Allocation Paradox: An Investigation into the Nature of a Very Strong but Puzzling Relationship’, European Journal of Political Research, 45 (2006), p. 657. Other authors had previously shown the usefulness of taking Gamson's mispredictions as a dependent variable (see Schofield, Norman and Laver, Michael, ‘Bargaining Theory and Portfolio Payoffs in European Coalition Governments 1945–83’, British Journal of Political Science, 15 (1985), 143164).

18 The weighted measure chosen is what Warwick and Druckman call ‘Weighted Portfolio Share II’ in Warwick and Druckman, ‘The Portfolio Allocation Paradox’. See also Druckman and Warwick, ‘The Missing Piece’ for a thorough discussion of the measurement of portfolio salience.

19 In fact the calculations were based on months rather than years, although the final variables here are presented in years but without losing measurement detail (e.g.: 15 months = 1.25 years).

20 Warwick, Paul V., Government Survival in Parliamentary Democracies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

21 Recall that for those parties with non-democratic periods the starting year is a later one, and that for France the dataset only takes into account the Fifth Republic (that is, from 1959 onwards).

22 Warwick and Druckman, ‘The Portfolio Allocation Paradox’, p. 657.

23 See Indridason, ‘Live for Today, Hope for Tomorrow?’ for a thorough discussion of the issue.

24 Warwick and Druckman, ‘The Portfolio Allocation Paradox’, p. 647. For more information on the lumpiness concept, see also Warwick, Paul V. and Druckman, James N., ‘Portfolio Salience and the Proportionality of Payoffs in Coalition Governments’, British Journal of Political Science, 31 (2001), 627649.

25 For the sake of presentational simplicity, in these tables Time Out of Office is measured simply in absolute terms. Results with the relative measure are highly similar.

26 Arguments in this vein are outlined, for instance, in Müller and Strom, Policy, Office, or Votes. For an application to the Spanish case, see Reniu, Josep M. and Bergman, Torbjörn, ‘Estrategias, Objetivos y Toma de Decisiones de los Partidos Políticos Españoles en la Formación de Gobiernos Estatales’, Política y Sociedad, 40 (2003), 6376.

27 Rosenbaum, Paul and Rubin, Donald B., ‘The Central Role of the Propensity Score in Observational Studies for Causal Effects’, Biometrika, 70 (1983), 4155.

28 See Becker, Sascha O. and Ichino, Andrea, ‘Estimation of Average Treatment Effects Based on Propensity Scores’, Stata Journal, 2 (2002), 358377.

29 There have been recent efforts to develop an extension of the propensity score methodology that allows estimating average causal effects with continuous treatments (see Hirano, Keisuke and Imbens, Guido W., ‘The Propensity Score with Continuous Treatments’, in Andrew Gelman and Xiao-Li Meng, Applied Bayesian Modeling and Causal Inference from Incomplete-Data Perspectives, eds (Chichester, W. Sussex: Wiley, 2004)). However, it is a fairly new method that has rarely been applied. After considering this technique, in the end I decided that it was more reasonable to proceed in the standard way and ‘binarize’ the treatment.

30 Laver, Michael and Ben Hunt, William. Policy and Party Competition (New York: Routledge, 1992).

31 See Falcó-Gimeno, ‘Portfolio Allocation and Time Out of Office in Coalition Governments’.

32 Caliendo, Marco and Kopeinig, Sabine, ‘Some Practical Guidance for the Implementation of Propensity Score Matching’, Journal of Economic Surveys, 22 (2008), 3172, pp. 38–9.

33 Rubin, Donald B. and Thomas, Neal, ‘Matching Using Estimated Propensity Scores: Relating Theory to Practice’, Biometrics, 52 (1996), 249264.

34 The Stata module used to perform such analyses has been psmatch2 (see Leuven, Edwin and Sianesi, Barbara, ‘Psmatch2: Stata Module to Perform Full Mahalanobis and Propensity Score Matching, Common Support Graphing, and Covariate Imbalance Testing’, version 3.1.5 2may2009, computer software (Boston College Department of Economics, 2003), Statistical Software Components). As usual when estimating average treatment effects for the treated with matching techniques, I have computed bootstrap standard errors with fifty iterations (as default in psmatch2).

* Department of Political and Social Sciences, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, and Center for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences, Juan March Institute, Madrid (email: ). The author thanks Javier Arregui, Ignacio Urquizu, José R. Montero, and the Journal's anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on previous versions of this article, as well as the Juan March Institute for language assistance.

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Parties Getting Impatient: Time Out of Office and Portfolio Allocation in Coalition Governments

  • Albert Falcó-Gimeno


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