Project C1:

Legislative reforms and party competition



Prof. Dr. Thomas König



Xiao Lu, PhD. / Thiago Nascimento da Silva


Shaun Bevan, Ph.D. / Nick Lin, Ph.D. / Prof. Sven-Oliver Proksch, Ph.D. /
Prof. Nikoleta Yordanova, Ph.D. / Jun.-Prof. Galina Zudenkova, Ph.D.

 Duration:01.01.2018 - 31.12.2021



The primary goal of Project C1 is to investigate under what circumstances governmental parties are able to initiate and adopt policy reforms in parliamentary systems. Figure 1 summarizes our research agenda for all three phases. We study the implications of the delegation chain in parliamentary democracies, which runs from voters through political parties to a government led by Prime Minister. This delegation chain results in tensions between policy responsiveness to partisan supporters and policy responsibility for the broader public. Such tensions then arise in the subsequent decision-making chain, which links governmental agenda setting and parliamentary policymaking back to the voters. In many parliamentary democracies, multiparty governments intensify these tensions by perplexing principal-agent problems within government (Strøm, Müller and Smith 2010). In Phase 1, we focused on the agenda-setting stage within the governments of Austria and Germany. We developed a principal-agent model of multiparty policymaking that considered the level of policy uncertainty, the extent of ideological competition, the strength of parliamentary institutions, and the capabilities of parties. In Phase 2, we continued to explore the principal-agent problems within multiparty governments, while shifting our attention from the agenda-setting stage in government to the policymaking stage in parliament. We also considered the implications of the Prime Minister, the opposition, and the electorate for policymaking in multiparty governments. Building on our initial comparison between Austria and Germany, we further expanded our data collection to nine Western, Central, and Eastern European countries. Finally, we worked closely with the German Internet Panel (GIP) team (Project Z1) to explore voters’ evaluations of multiparty governments. In Phase 3, our central task will be to bring a “political-economy” perspective to our study of parliamentary systems. Specifically, as Figure 1 indicates, in addition to our study of principal-agent relationships in multiparty governments, we will further investigate the tensions between partisan responsiveness and public responsibility under uncertainty about policy outcomes and the reaction of the voters. Building on the conventional model of party responsiveness that considers it desirable for parties to pursue policies benefitting their own supporters (APSA 1950; Adams 2001), we will further incorporate public responsibility for the broader electorate (Mair 2003; Bardi, Bartolini, and Trechsel 2014) into our principal-agent model of multiparty policymaking under uncertainty. Empirically, we will employ content analysis to map party manifestos, government declarations, speeches made by members of parliament, and the text of legislative proposals onto a common policy space to compare the positions of different actors (e.g., government and opposition parties) with the final policy outputs. This will allow us to study the extent to which party positions are translated into policies, and how this translation relates to the interests of specific party supporters and the more general public interests. We plan to achieve this goal by employing the large cross-national legislative data set we collected in Phase 2. Moreover, we will examine how the interaction of government type (e.g., minority or surplus coalition), intra-government (between the prime-ministerial and partner parties) and intra-parliament (between government and opposition parties) competition with voters’ attitudes conditions the trade-off between partisan responsiveness and public responsibility under uncertainty. In the end of Phase 3, we expect to uncover how the level of policy uncertainty, the extent of ideological competition, the strength of parliamentary institutions, the capabilities of parties, the interests of party supporters and of the general public are intertwined in shaping the policymaking process and the content of adopted policy reforms.