What do governing parties in Germany talk about in their coalition agreements?

Governance in multi-level settings is complicated. Most parties do not only compete against each other at the national level but also at the regional, the local or even the European level (see e.g. Braun and Schmitt, forthcoming; Gross and Jankowski, 2020; Müller, 2013). To complicate matters even further, parties do not stop at policy signalling after elections, but they write coalition agreements if they are able to enter government after successful coalition negotiations. While previous research analysed the length and comprehensiveness of coalition agreements extensively (see e.g. Bowler et al., 2016; Eichorst, 2014; Indridason and Kristinsson, 2013; Krauss, 2018), the specific challenges of coalition agreements in multi-level settings have so far been neglected. When writing coalition agreements, the parties have at least two options to choose from when deciding what to include in the joint contract. On the one hand, they can include those topics that are relevant and salient for their voters. On the other hand, they can also consider the political environment they bargain in. In our recent article in German Politics, we concentrate on the latter option and ask: Which topics do governing parties cover in their coalition agreements in multi-level settings?… Read More What do governing parties in Germany talk about in their coalition agreements?

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Literature Review: The Evaluation Bias Against High-Income Congressional Candidates

Previous research has indicated that voters’ assessment of politicians is shaped by various personal determinants like gender, ethnic affiliation, the level of education and occupational status. In their recent work, Griffin et al. further analyze whether the income of congressional candidates impacts voters’ evaluations. Building on earlier work from stereotyping studies the authors hypothesize that the perception of a candidate changes with the level of their income. On the one hand, people might believe that wealthier candidates possess more pronounced leadership and are hence more competent for political office, but, on the other hand, voters might also perceive high-income candidates as less honest, empathetic and relatable. Voters’ biased evaluations of candidates’ personalities have profound consequences in the electoral arena. Citizens don’t think – moreover don’t trust – that a high-income candidate would stand up for their needs and interests. Consequently, voters turn away from the high-income candidate and are more likely to vote for a low-income candidate.… Read More Literature Review: The Evaluation Bias Against High-Income Congressional Candidates

Are Prime Ministers in Central Eastern Europe Weaker Than Their Counterparts in Western Europe?

It is often argued that prime ministers (PMs) in Central Eastern Europe (CEE) are weaker/perform worse than PMs in Western Europe (WE) (Baylis, 2007; Elgie, 2012). CEE PMs remain in office for relatively short durations and therefore are expected to achieve fewer policy goals than PMs in WE; who on average hold office for longer periods. This argument reaches back to Baylis (2007, p. 83f) who identifies policy performance as the most desirable indicator to evaluate the strength of a PM. While Balyis acknowledges that a PMs duration in office provides only a rough approximation of their policy performance he argues that it should approximate performance reasonably well. First, PMs need time to formulate policy goals and get legislation through parliament. Second, PMs can not remain in office without political support, therefore, PMs with a long duration are likely to also retain the necessary support to enact their preferred agenda.… Read More Are Prime Ministers in Central Eastern Europe Weaker Than Their Counterparts in Western Europe?

Literature Review: The Gendered Effects of Public Discontent on Legislative Nominations in Latin America

In this recently published article in Party Politics, Funk, Hinojosa and Piscopo analyze strategic candidate nominations of political parties in response to unfavorable political contexts. They argue that if public discontent with legislatures and perceived corruption is high, political elites have an incentive to nominate more women in order to maximize vote shares. Based on the assumption that women (according to gendered stereotypes) are associated with higher morality, more civic-mindedness and less corruption, political parties strategically assemble more diverse candidate lists in contexts of skepticism. With this strategy, they aim to signal the voter that the party is changing course and thus deserve voters’ trust and, in turn, hope to increase vote shares. Using data from more than 100 political parties in 18 Latin American countries, the authors show that discontent can indeed have gendered effects: parties nominate more women when a large proportion of the public distrusts the national legislature.… Read More Literature Review: The Gendered Effects of Public Discontent on Legislative Nominations in Latin America

Do female MPs represent women’s interests in parliament? Yes, but only if the electoral system permits it!

It is a common assumption that the election of more women to parliament leads to a higher representation of women’s interests in the legislative arena. Because female members of parliament (MPs) share gender-specific experiences with the female population – so the argument goes – it is expected that they are more concerned with women-specific topics and that they also represent these issues more frequently in the parliamentary process compared with their male colleagues (Phillips 1995). On the one hand, this is corroborated by a number of studies showing that female legislators have different priorities than male MPs (Coffé and Reiser 2018), that they increasingly engage in plenary and committee debates on women-specific interests (Bäck, Debus and Müller 2014), and that they introduce more law initiatives on women-specific interests (Volden, Wiseman, and Wittmer 2018). On the other hand, however, many of these studies also reveal that the legislative behavior of female MPs does not always indicate strong commitments to the representation of women-specific interests. Besides the justified critique that women are not a homogenous group with a fixed set of interests, these results also spurred the conclusion that the link between descriptive and substantive representation of women seems to be more complicated than previously assumed and that we should focus on the analysis of the conditions and institutional settings under which female legislators are able to act on behalf of women.… Read More Do female MPs represent women’s interests in parliament? Yes, but only if the electoral system permits it!

Women as European Commissioners – Can von der Leyen reach the fifty percent she promised?

In a tight race, Ursula von der Leyen was elected by the European Parliament to be president of the European Commission [EC] last week. One of many promises she made during her short campaign, was the pledge to bring in 50 percent women as commissioners. This is an ambitious endeavor given that women currently occupy about 30 percent of the offices. This figure is considerably higher than the average proportion of female ministers in the member states through the 2000s, where only 23.4 percent of all government members were women (own data, excluding Malta and Cyprus). The literature on politics and gender would lead us to expect the opposite pattern with lower proportions of women in the commission compared to national executives: For instance, theories highlighting the role of political opportunity structure point to the fact that women are less likely to reach political offices if only one position is available (Jalalzai 2008) and, since every country sends only one commissioner, women should stand low chances to be selected. Students of executive and legislative recruitment revealed that women have lower chances if aspirants can not declare their interest for offices independently since women are less likely to be part of the insider networks from which candidates are selected in such cases (Matland 2002). Since the EC nominations are made by governments behind closed doors, women face additional barriers to their consideration as nominees. Which factors enable women to overcome these obstacles to EC appointment and explain whether countries sent female commissioners?… Read More Women as European Commissioners – Can von der Leyen reach the fifty percent she promised?

German female and male ministers – many similarities and little differences

Most executives around the world are largely male-dominated, even though the proportion of women ministers is at an all-time high at the moment with 20.7 per cent (812 out of 3922), (IPU 2019). Some scholars argue that the low numbers follow from the fact that women need to overcome higher barriers than men to get to the top (e.g. Murray 2014, Verge and Astudillo 2019). They need to make-up for intangible masculine assets that they naturally do not possess but that are highly valued by institutional and political gatekeepers who select ministers. Based on this idea, women might have to be exceptional to overcome social, structural, and political obstacles to office. To understand this rationale in more detail, in this blogpost, I zoom into the German case to answer the question whether female ministers are better equipped for a position in government than their male colleagues?… Read More German female and male ministers – many similarities and little differences