Skip to main content

Minority Governments and Pledge Fulfilment: Evidence from Portugal

  • Catherine Moury and Jorge M. Fernandes

In an age of rampant distrust and disaffection, pledge fulfilment is important for the quality of delegation between voters and elected officials. In this article, we make an empirical appraisal of pledge fulfilment in Portugal. Do Portuguese minority governments fulfil their pledges? How do they fulfil those pledges? What is the role of opposition parties? Using an original data set with over 3,000 electoral pledges for three Socialist governments, as well as interviews with former ministers and party leaders, our evidence suggests that: (1) minority governments fulfil at least as many pledges as their majority counterparts; (2) the main opposition party manages to extract the most policy benefits; and (3) economic conditions and cohabitation situations matter for pledge fulfilment.

Hide All

Catherine Moury is Assistant Professor in Political Science at the FCSH-Universidade Nova, Lisbon. Contact email:

Jorge M. Fernandes is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Comparative Politics at the University of Bamberg. Contact email:

Hide All
Adams, J. and Merrill, S. (2009), ‘Policy-seeking Parties in a Parliamentary Democracy with Proportional Representation: A Valence-Uncertainty Model’, British Journal of Political Science, 39(3): 539558.
Amorim Neto, O. (2003), ‘Portugal: Changing Patterns of Delegation and Accountability under the President’s Watchful Eyes’, in K. Strøm, W.C. Müller and T. Bergman (eds), Delegation and Accountability in Parliamentary Democracies (Oxford: Oxford University Press): 552572.
Amorim Neto, O. and Lobo, M.C. (2009), ‘Portugal’s Semi-Presidentialism (Re)Considered: An Assessment of the President’s Role in the Policy Process, 1976–2006’, European Journal of Political Research, 48(2): 234255.
Andeweg, R.B. (2000), ‘Ministers as Double Agents? The Delegation Process between Cabinet and Ministers’, European Journal of Political Research, 37(3): 377395.
Artés, J. (2013), ‘Do Spanish Politicians Keep Their Election Promises?’, Party Politics, 19(1): 143158.
Artés, J. and Bustos, A. (2008), ‘Electoral Promises and Minority Governments: An Empirical Study’, European Journal of Political Research, 47(3): 307333.
Becher, M. and Christiansen, F.J. (2015), ‘Dissolution Threats and Legislative Bargaining’, American Journal of Political Science, 59(3): 641655.
Belchior, A.M. (2008), ‘Party Political Representation in Portugal’, South European Society and Politics, 13(4): 457476.
Christiansen, F.J. and Damgaard, E. (2009), ‘Parliamentary Opposition under Minority Parliamentarism: Scandinavia’, Journal of Legislative Studies, 14(1–2): 4676.
Christiansen, F.J. and Pedersen, H.H. (2012), ‘Minority Coalition Governance in Denmark’, Party Politics, 20(6): 940949.
Costello, R. and Thomson, R. (2008), ‘Election Pledges and Their Enactments in Coalition Governments: A Comparative Analysis of Ireland’, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 18(3): 239256.
Dalton, R., Farrell, D. and McAllister, I. (2011), Political Parties and Democratic Linkage: How Parties Organize Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Elgie, R. (1999), Semi-presidentialism in Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Fernandes, J.M. (2016), ‘Intra-Party Delegation in the Portuguese Legislature: Assigning Committee Chairs and Party Coordination Positions’, Journal of Legislative Studies, 22(1): 108128.
Field, B.N. (2009), ‘Minority Government and Legislative Politics in a Multilevel State: Spain under Zapatero’, South European Society and Politics, 14(4): 417434.
Ganghof, S. and Brauninger, T. (2006), ‘Government Status and Legislative Behaviour: Partisan Veto Players in Australia, Denmark, Finland, and Germany’, Party Politics, 12(4): 521539.
Green-Pedersen, C. (2001), ‘Minority Governments and Party Politics: The Political and Institutional Background to the “Danish Miracle”’, Journal of Public Policy, 21(1): 5370.
Huber, E. and Stephens, J. (2001), Development and Crisis of the Welfare State: Parties and Policies in Global Markets (Chicago: Chicago University Press).
Indridason, I.H. and Kam, C. (2008), ‘Cabinet Reshuffles and Ministerial Drift’, British Journal of Political Science, 38(4): 621656.
ISSP Research Group (2008), International Social Survey Programme: Role of Government IV – ISSP 2006 (Cologne: GESIS Data Archive).
Jalali, C. (2007), Partidos e Democracia em Portuga, 1974–2005: da Revolução ao Bipartidarismo? (Lisbon: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais).
Katz, R. (1986), ‘Party Government: A Rationalist Conception’, in F.G. Castles and R. Windenmann (eds), Visions and Realities of Party Government (Florence: EUI): 3171.
Leston-Bandeira, C. (2004), From Legislation to Legitimation: The Role of the Portuguese Parliament (London: Routledge).
Leston-Bandeira, C. (2009), ‘Dissent in a Party-Based Parliament: The Portuguese Case’, Party Politics, 15(6): 695713.
Lijphart, A. (1999), Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries (New Haven: Yale University Press).
Lupia, A. and Strøm, K. (1995), ‘Coalition Termination and the Strategic Timing of Parliamentary Elections’, American Political Science Review, 89(3): 648665.
Magalhães, P.C. (2012), ‘After the Bailout: Responsibility, Policy, and Valence in the Portuguese Legislative Election of June 2011’, South European Society and Politics, 17(2): 309327.
Mansbridge, J. (2003), ‘Rethinking Representation’, American Political Science Review, 97(4): 515528.
Mansergh, L.E. (2004), ‘Do Parties Make a Difference? The Relationship Between Government Intention and Government Output in the Public Policy Sphere: The Case of Governments in Ireland 1977–1997’, PhD dissertation, Trinity College, Dublin.
McCluskey, N. (2008), ‘Election Manifesto Pledge Fulfilment in New Zealand, 1972–2005’, PhD dissertation, University of Canterbury.
Moury, C. (2011), ‘Italian Coalitions and Electoral Promises: Assessing the Democratic Performance of the Prodi I and Berlusconi II Governments’, Modern Italy, 16(1): 3550.
Moury, C. and De Giorgi, E. (2015), ‘Introduction: Conflict and Consensus in Parliament During the Economic Crisis’, Journal of Legislative Studies, 21(1): 113.
Müller, W.C. (2000), ‘Political Parties in Parliamentary Democracies: Making Delegation and Accountability Work’, European Journal of Political Research, 37(3): 309333.
Müller, W.C. and Strøm, K. (1999), Policy, Office, or Votes? How Political Parties in Western Europe Make Hard Decisions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Naurin, E. (2009), ‘Promising Democracy: Parties, Citizens and Election Promises’, PhD thesis, Department of Political Science, Statsvetenskapliga Institutionen.
Naurin, E. (2011), Election Promises, Party Behaviour and Voter Perceptions (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).
Powell, B. and Whitten, G. (1993), ‘A Cross-National Analysis of Economic Voting: Taking Account of the Political Context’, American Journal of Political Science, 37(2): 391414.
Rose, R. (1984), Do Parties Make a Difference? (London: Macmillan).
Royed, T. (1996), ‘Testing the Mandate Model in Britain and the United States: Evidence from the Reagan and Thatcher Eras’, British Journal of Political Science, 26(1): 4580.
Schimmelfennig, F. (2001), ‘The Community Trap: Liberal Norms, Rhetorical Action, and the Eastern Enlargement of the European Union’, International Organization, 55(1): 4780.
Shugart, M. and Carey, J. (1992), Presidents and Assemblies: Constitutional Design and Electoral Dynamics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Smith, A. (2004), Election Timing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Strøm, K. (1990), Minority Government and Majority Rule (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Strøm, K. (2000), ‘Delegation and Accountability in Parliamentary Democracies’, European Journal of Political Research, 37(3): 261289.
Thomson, R. (2001), ‘The Programme to Policy Linkage: The Fulfilment of Election Pledges on Social-Economic Policy in the Netherlands, 1986–1998’, European Journal of Political Research, 40(2): 171197.
Thomson, R. et al. (2014), ‘The Program-to-Policy Linkage: A Comparative Study of Election Pledges and Government Policies in Ten Countries’, paper presented at APSA Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, 28–31 August.
Tsebelis, G. (2002), Veto Players: How Political Institutions Work (Princeton: Princeton University Press).
Recommend this journal

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

Government and Opposition
  • ISSN: 0017-257X
  • EISSN: 1477-7053
  • URL: /core/journals/government-and-opposition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed