Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Why Pre-Electoral Coalitions in Presidential Systems?


Why do political parties join coalitions to support other parties’ presidential candidates if presidents, once elected, are not bound to their pre-electoral pledges? This article argues that policy agreements made publicly between coalition partners during the campaign help parties pursue policy goals. However, parties cannot use pre-electoral coalitions to secure access to patronage, pork and government benefits under the control of presidents because they cannot hold presidents accountable to these agreements. Quantitative analysis of Latin American electoral coalitions demonstrates that political parties are more likely to form presidential electoral coalitions as the ideological distance between them decreases. Yet presidential electoral coalitions tend not to include non-programmatic political parties, even though such office-oriented parties are unconstrained by ideological considerations.

Hide All

Associate Professor, Waseda University (e-mail: I thank Sona Golder, Royce Carroll, Michael Wahman, Kim Yi Dionne, Francisco Pedraza, Jana Morgan, Guy Whitten and Kaare Strøm for their comments on earlier versions of this article, and Rhonda Struminger for her research assistance. Data replication materials are available at, and online appendices are available at

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

John Aldrich . 1995. Why Parties? The Origin and Transformation of Political Parties in America. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Octavio Amorim Neto , and Gary W. Cox . 1997. Electoral Institutions, Cleavage Structures, and the Number of Parties. American Journal of Political Science 41:149174.

Leonardo R. Arriola 2009. Patronage and Political Stability in Africa. Comparative Political Studies 42:13391362.

Andy Baker , and Kenneth F. Greene . 2011. The Latin American Lefts Mandate: Free-Market Policies and Issue Voting in New Democracies. World Politics 63:4377.

Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay , Kalyan Chatterjee , and Tomas Sjöström . 2011. Pre-electoral Coalitions and Post-election Bargaining. Quarterly Journal of Political Science 6 (1):153.

Kathleen Bawn , and Frances Rosenbluth . 2006. Short Versus Long Coalitions: Electoral Accountability and the Size of the Public Sector. American Journal of Political Science 50 (2):251265.

Andre Blais , and Indridi H. Indridason . 2007. Making Candidates Count: The Logic of Electoral Alliances in Two Round Legislative Elections. Journal of Politics 69:193205.

Ernesto Calvo , and Maria Victoria Murillo . 2004. Who Delivers? Partisan Clients in the Argentine Electoral Market. American Journal of Political Science 48:742757.

John M. Carey , and Peter M. Siavelis . 2005. Insurance for Good Losers and the Survival of Chile’s Concertación. Latin American Politics and Society 47 (2):122.

Royce Carroll , and Gary W. Cox . 2007. The Logic of Gamson’s Law: Pre-Election Coalitions and Portfolio Allocations. American Journal of Political Science 51:300313.

Michael Coppedge . 1998. The Dynamic Diversity of Latin American Party Systems. Party Politics 4 (4):547568.

Marc Debus . 2009. Pre-Electoral Commitments and Government Formation. Public Choice 138 (1–2):4564.

Scott W Desposato . 2006. Parties for Rent? Careerism, Ideology, and Party Switching in Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies. American Journal of Political Science 50 (1):6280.

Federico Ferrara , and Erik S. Herron . 2005. Going It Alone? Strategic Entry Under Mixed Electoral Rules. American Journal of Political Science 49 (1):1631.

Matt Golder . 2006a. Presidential Coattails and Legislative Fragmentation. American Journal of Political Science 50:3448.

Sona Nadenichek Golder . 2006c. Pre-Electoral Coalition Formation in Parliamentary Democracies. British Journal of Political Science 36:193212.

Robert E. Goodin , Werner Guth , and Rupert Sausgruber . 2008. When to Coalesce: Early Versus Late Coalition Announcements in an Experimental Democracy. British Journal of Political Science 38:181191.

Allen Hicken , and Heather Stoll . 2011. Presidents and Parties: How Presidential Elections Shape Coordination in Legislative Elections. Comparative Political Studies 44 (8):854883.

Gregg B. Johnson , and Brian F. Crisp . 2003. Mandates, Powers, and Policies. American Journal of Political Science 47:128142.

Mark P Jones . 1994. Presidential Election Laws and Multipartism in Latin America. Political Research Quarterly 47:4157.

Mark P Jones . 1999. Electoral Laws and the Effective Number of Candidates in Presidential Elections. Journal of Politics 61:171184.

Marisa Kellam . 2015. Parties for Hire: How Particularistic Parties Influence Presidents’ Governing Strategies. Party Politics 21:511526.

Herbert Kitschelt . 2000. Linkages Between Citizens and Politicians in Democratic Polities. Comparative Political Studies 33:845879.

Herbert Kitschelt , Kirk A. Hawkins , Juan Pablo Luna , Guillermo Rosas , and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister . 2010. Latin American Party Systems. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Herbert Kitschelt , and Steven I. Wilkinson , eds. 2007. Patrons, Clients and Policies: Patterns of Democratic Accountability and Political Competition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Aline Machado . 2009. Minimum Winning Electoral Coalitions Under Presidentialism: Reality or Fiction? The Case of Brazil. Latin American Politics and Society 51 (3):87110.

Scott Mainwaring . 1993. Presidentialism, Multipartism, and Democracy: The Difficult Combination. Comparative Political Studies 26 (2):198228.

Scott Mainwaring , and Mathew Shugart , eds. 1997. Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lanny W. Martin , and Georg Vanberg . 2008. Coalition Government and Political Communication. Political Research Quarterly 61 (3):502516.

Lanny W. Martin , and Randolph T. Stevenson . 2001. Government Formation in Parliamentary Democracies. American Journal of Political Science 45:3350.

Guillermo A O’Donnell . 1994. Delegative Democracy. Journal of Democracy 5:5569.

J. Mark Payne , Daniel Zovatto G. , and Mercedes Mateo Díaz . 2007. Democracies in Development: Politics and Reform in Latin America. Washington, DC: Inter-American Development Bank.

Anibal Perez-Linan . 2006. Evaluating Presidential Runoff Elections. Electoral Studies 25:129146.

David J Samuels . 2002. Presidentialized Parties: The Separation of Powers and Party Organization and Behavior. Comparative Political Studies 35:461483.

David Samuels , and Matthew Shugart . 2003. Presidentialism, Elections and Representation. Journal of Theoretical Politics 15:3360.

David Samuels , and Matthew Shugart . 2010. Presidents, Parties, and Prime Ministers: How the Separation of Powers Affects Party Organization and Behavior. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Matthew Soberg Shugart , and John M. Carey . 1992. Presidents and Assemblies: Constitutional Design and Electoral Dynamics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Jae-Jae M. Spoon , and Karleen Jones West . 2015. Alone or Together? How Institutions Affect Party Entry in Presidential Elections in Europe and South America. Party Politics 21 (3):393403.

Susan C Stokes . 2001. Mandates and Democracy: Neoliberalism by Surprise in Latin America. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Michael Wahman . 2011a. Offices and Policies: Why Do Oppositional Parties Form Pre-Electoral Coalitions in Competitive Authoritarian Regimes? Electoral Studies 30 (4):642657.

Karleen Jones West , and Jae-Jae Spoon . 2013. Credibility vs. Competition: The Impact of Party Size on Decisions to Enter Presidential Elections in South America and Europe. Comparative Political Studies 46 (4):513539.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Kellam supplementary material

 PDF (368 KB)
368 KB
Supplementary Materials

Kellam Dataset



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 23
Total number of PDF views: 237 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 649 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 25th September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.