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Black and white photo of Hanna Bäck. Photo.

Hanna Bäck


Black and white photo of Hanna Bäck. Photo.

Coalition agreements and governments’ policy-making productivity


  • Matthew E. Bergman
  • Mariyana Angelova
  • Hanna Bäck
  • Wolfgang C. Müller

Summary, in English

One of the biggest challenges parties in multiparty governments face is making policies together and overcoming the risk of a policy stalemate. Scholars have devoted much attention to the study of how various institutions in cabinet and parliament help coalition parties with conflicting policy preferences to be efficient in the policy-making process. Coalition agreements are one of many instruments coalition partners can use to facilitate policy making. However, many scholars describe such agreements’ actual role as cheap talk, due to their legally non-enforceable nature. Do coalition agreements make a difference in the policy-making productivity of multiparty governments? To address this question, this article focuses on governments’ policy output and investigates whether coalition agreements increase the policy-making productivity of multiparty cabinets. Its central argument is that written agreements between coalition partners strengthen the capacity of coalition governments to make policy reforms, even when there is a high degree of ideological conflict among partners. To evaluate this argument, the article analyzes data on economic reform measures adopted by national governments in 11 Western European countries over a 40-year period (1978–2017), based on a coding of more than 1000 periodical country reports issued by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The results show that while coalition agreements foster policy productivity in minimal winning cabinets, they play a weaker role in minority and surplus governments. Coalition agreements limit the negative effect of intra-cabinet ideological conflict on reform productivity, suggesting that such contracts help parties overcome the risk of policy stalemate.


  • Department of Political Science

Publishing year







West European Politics





Document type

Journal article


Taylor & Francis


  • Political Science


  • Coalition agreements
  • coalition government
  • economic reforms
  • policy making
  • Western Europe




  • ISSN: 0140-2382