When to Coalesce: Early versus Late Coalition Announcement in an Experimental Democracy
In multi-party democracies, several parties usually have to join together in coalition to form government. Many aspects of that process have been fairly fully investigated, others less so. Among the latter is the timing of the formation and announcement of coalitions. While the dominant popular image may be one of parties meeting together after the election to hammer out a coalition agreement, pre-election coalitions of one sort or another are actually quite common. In almost half of the elections in OECD countries since World War II, at least one pair of parties had pre-announced their intention to join together in government. A quarter of governments formed were based wholly (and another quarter in part) on pre-election agreements. To date, such studies as there have been of pre-election coalitions have concentrated primarily on system-level explanations - features of the electoral system (majoritarian or proportional, and so on) that make such arrangements more or less likely. Here we shall instead look more at the agent-level logic of ‘early’ (preelection) versus ‘late’ (post-election) coalition formation, from the point of view of voters and parties.
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