New article in Governance

In a new article in the journal Governance, Jonathan K. Klüser (University of Zurich), Ulrich Sieberer and David Schmuck examine ministerial cooperation in legislative projects of the German federal government.

The responsibility for drafting legislation often lies with one federal ministry, but the drafting often requires the cooperation and coordination of other ministries. In coalition governments, the coalition parties divide the portfolios among themselves and often have different policy objectives on individual issues. In the study, the researchers argue that coalition governments commit to a common coalition programme and that coalition parties can prevent a unilateral deviation from the common compromise solution by participating in the drafting of bills of the other coalition partner. The researchers assume that coalition partners participate more often in legislative projects whose area of jurisdictions is more strongly divided between coalition parties. Moreover, the effect should be stronger if the coalition partners have a more divergent idea of the ideological ideal position of the legislative matter.

On the basis of more than 2,800 bills proposed by 11 different federal cabinets and the participation of different federal ministries in Germany in the period from 1976 to 2013, it is shown that federal ministries of different coalition parties are more likely to participate in a bill if the subject matter of the law is more strongly divided between federal ministries of the different coalition parties. Coalition parties are more likely to participate in the draft legislation of the other coalition party(ies) if the coalition parties position themselves more ideologically differently on the subject matter and there is thus a risk that the coalition partner will implement a law that deviates from the coalition compromise and more strongly represents its own position.


Figure 1: Klüser et al. 2023

The results have important implications for understanding coalition government working practices and their mechanisms for mutual control. Previous research on legislation has focused on the parliamentary part of the legislative process (e.g. amendments to bills in parliamentary committees). However, it has been shown that an important part of coalition control of proposed legislation already takes place in the formulation stage within the cabinet and thus outside of public attention.

Klüser, Jonathan K.; Schmuck, David; Sieberer, Ulrich (2023): Colleagues or adversaries: Ministerial Coordination Across Party Lines. In: Governance.