Assembly Dissolution Powers, Coalition Bargaining and Government Policy

Joint with Alejandro Ecker and Hanna Bäck

Most parliamentary democracies give the prime minister a central role in dissolving parliament. To date, however, the impact of this constitutional power on coalition policy bargaining remains unexplored. When coalition partners disagree about policy, the power to dissolve parliament is a formidable threat that leaders can use to extract concessions from minor coalition parties by forcing them to choose between the costs the prime minister’s preferred policy and early elections. We propose that this power increases the prime minister’s ability to determine government policy and test this argument using data on the unemployment policies enacted by governments in 22 parliamentary democracies over 40 years. Our results show that prime ministers with extensive dissolution powers achieve policies that are closer to their preferences when their goals conflict with those of their coalition partners.