Welfare Restructuring without Partisan Cooperation: The Role of Party Collusion in Blame Avoidance
This article argues that welfare state restructuring, which is highly unpopular among voters, is politically feasible if government and opposition parties collude informally with each other. Contrary to key arguments made in the literature, restructuring does not require the formation of a formal grand coalition which diffuses blame from voters. Party collusion is a distinctive blame-avoiding strategy that differs not only from other party-oriented strategies such as building a grand coalition, but also from voter-oriented ones. By analyzing the politics of pension reform in Germany from 1995 to 2004, this article shows that party collusion, which emerges through repeated signaling and informal agreements, enables political parties to restructure the welfare state without running the risk of electoral failure. Finally, it suggests that collusion likely explains recent successes of Austrian, French and Italian governments in legislating unpopular welfare cutbacks.
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