New article in West European Politics

In a new article in the journal West European Politics, Thomas M. Meyer (University of Vienna), Ulrich Sieberer and David Schmuck examine changes in the allocation of portfolios in an international comparison.

International comparisons show that coalition governments frequently undertake changes in the distribution of departmental responsibilities during the period of government. The analysis of departmental changes in cabinets of eight European countries from 1970 to 2015 reveals that characteristics of coalition formation explain the extent of change during government. In the study, the researchers argue that uncertainty and complexity during coalition negotiations make it more difficult for the actors involved to reach a negotiated outcome that is mutually beneficial for all coalition parties. Therefore, in such coalition governments, it should be necessary to make more frequent improvements to the allocation of competencies among portfolios during the joint term of government.

The empirical findings show that both the duration of the formation of the government and the ideological distance between the coalition parties have a statistically significant and meaningful influence on the frequency of changes in the portfolio allocation. However, the parties' joint previous experience in government has no effect on further changes.


The cross-national study shows that changes in portfolio design are the result of coalition politics, as changes are more often made in cabinets that are characterised by stronger ideological conflict potential as well as more difficult coalition negotiations. This is an interesting finding, especially as coalition formation becomes increasingly complex and uncertain due to greater fragmentation of party systems and growing coalition alternatives. The study thus provides an important contribution to the understanding of internal government action and organisation.

The article appears as a contribution to the Special Issue "Coalition Dynamics: Advances in the Study of the Coalition Life Cycle", edited by Hanna Bäck, Johann Hellström and Wolfgang C. Müller.

Thomas M. Meyer/Ulrich Sieberer/David Schmuck: Rebuilding the coalition ship at sea: how uncertainty and complexity drive the reform of portfolio design in coalition cabinets. In: West European Politics,