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Black and white photo of Hanna Bäck. Photo.

Hanna Bäck


Black and white photo of Hanna Bäck. Photo.

Veto player theory and reform making in Western Europe


  • Mariyana Angelova
  • Hanna Bäck
  • Wolfgang C. Müller
  • Daniel Strobl

Summary, in English

Veto player theory generates predictions about governments' capacity for policy change. Due to the difficulty of identifying significant laws needed to change the policy status quo, evidence about governments' ability to change policy has been mostly provided for a limited number of reforms and single-country studies. To evaluate the predictive power of veto player theory for policy making across time, policy areas and countries, a dataset was gathered that incorporates about 5,600 important government reform measures in the areas of social, labour, economic and taxation policy undertaken in 13 Western European countries from the mid-1980s until the mid-2000s. Veto player theory is applied in a combined model with other central theoretical expectations on policy change derived from political economy (crisis-driven policy change) and partisan theory (ideology-driven policy change). Robust support is found that governments introduce more reform measures when economic conditions are poor and when the government is positioned further away from the policy status quo. No empirical support is found for predictions of veto player theory in its pure form, where no differentiation between government types is made. However, the findings provide support for the veto player theory in the special case of minimal winning cabinets, where the support of all government parties is sufficient (in contrast to minority cabinets) and necessary (in contrast to oversized cabinets) for policy change. In particular, it is found that in minimal winning cabinets the ideological distance between the extreme government parties significantly decreases the government's ability to introduce reforms. These findings improve our understanding of reform making in parliamentary democracies and highlight important issues and open questions for future applications and tests of the veto player theory.


  • Department of Political Science

Publishing year







European Journal of Political Research





Document type

Journal article




  • Political Science


  • Policy output
  • Reform making
  • Veto players
  • Western Europe




  • ISSN: 0304-4130