New article in West European Politics

Lukas Hohendorf and Ulrich Sieberer, together with Thomas Saalfeld, show that the federal government and opposition in the Bundestag are more likely to vote in the same way, if the federal government does not control a majority in the Bundesrat. Oppositional veto power thus fosters cooperation between government and opposition and does not necessarily lead to political gridlock.

Some famous and striking examples show that the opposition can use its veto power in the second chamber to make the government look incapable of action (as for example the SPD did at the end of the Kohl government in 1996-98). However, our results suggest that, overall, government and opposition parties seek compromises at the very beginning of the legislative process and that conflicts are often resolved in the first chamber.

In our article, we argue that institutional veto power of the opposition (e.g., through a second chamber) can promote cooperation between the government and opposition parties in parliament. This theoretical assumption is supported in the article by data on all roll-call votes in the German Bundestag 1949-2013. In our model, we control for the policy distance between the election manifestos of the government and the opposition and other factors that affect the level of conflict of the votes. Statistical analysis shows that opposition and government parties are more likely to vote jointly on laws requiring approval in the Bundestag if the opposition has a majority in the Bundesrat. Overall, it can be concluded that opposition veto power does not necessarily lead to more competitive behavior and political stalemate, but ceteris paribus even to more cooperation.

Hohendorf, Lukas; Saalfeld, Thomas and Ulrich Sieberer (2020): Veto power fosters cooperative behaviour: How institutional incentives affect voting agreement between government and opposition parties in the German Bundestag. West European Politics, online first, DOI: 10.1080/01402382.2020.1739868 Link