Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

All the President's Men and Women: Coalition Management Strategies and Governing Costs in a Multiparty Presidency

Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

All the President's Men and Women: Coalition Management Strategies and Governing Costs in a Multiparty Presidency

Article excerpt

Over the course of a few decades, political scientists and economists developed a rich collection of formal models of political coalition formation and survival in parliamentary regimes (see summaries in Laver 1998, 2003; Martin and Stevenson 2001). This first wave of work in coalitional politics tended to think in general terms about the coalition characteristics that facilitated survival. Yet, as Druckman noted more recently, "Extant work offers scant insight into the processes of governance" (2008, 482). A newer branch of literature has begun exploring the idea of ongoing administration or "coalition management," particularly in the context of multiparty presidential regimes (e.g., Chaisty, Cheeseman, and Power 2014; Hiroi and Renno 2014; Pereira and Melo 2012; Pereira, Power, and Raile 2011; Pereira, Power, and Renno 2005; Praca, Freitas, and Hoepers 2011; Raile, Pereira, and Power 2011). The current project builds on such work by considering the various decisions and tools involved in coalition management and by considering the ways a multiparty president can minimize governing costs with coalition parties.

Multiparty presidential regimes provide fertile ground for examining coalition management. Importantly, only a president in a multiparty system must simultaneously manage: (1) the entire executive branch, (2) his own political party, (3) relations between constitutionally separate branches, and (4) a true potential multiparty cabinet. The president is clearly the head of any coalition even prior to formation and is more difficult to replace than a prime minister due to the lack of confidence votes and the constitutional separation of origin and survival from the legislature. The president can often construct new cabinets in the middle of a term in a fairly unilateral manner, as well. A multiparty president is required to make a range of important management decisions due to these diverse, interrelated responsibilities of a political and administrative nature.

Multiparty presidents often operate in difficult environments but are also often given considerable institutional tools and resources to overcome this fragmentation and to facilitate governance (Shugart and Carey 1992). Some presidents fall into the trap of treating resource distribution as the end itself, which is a situation that lends itself to political corruption (Power and Taylor 2011). Other executives use their tools as a means to the end of achieving policy goals. Such executives may be concerned about politics and the spoils of office, but they also have sought the highest office in the land in order to implement certain policies. For these presidents, coalition management is an ongoing and complicated process.

This project asks how a president in a multiparty system might optimize outcomes in a complex and fragmented management environment. The use of resources in managing the coalition not only constitutes a cost in itself but also often means bearing the cost of policies drifting away from the president's preferences. The argument developed here is an important step in understanding governance and policymaking in multiparty presidential regimes and in being able to evaluate the performance of presidents in such regimes. This theoretical development and the derivation of testable implications are crucial for advancing the literature on coalition management.

This project examines these complex issues using Brazil as a case study. Although the last few Brazilian presidents have governed practically under the same institutional setting, they have faced different constraints and have made different decisions about managing their coalitions. (1) Once elected, the president faces at least three interconnected constraints: (1) the level of party fragmentation in the legislature, (2) the size of the president's party relative to the sizes of other parties, and (3) the ideological distances between the president's party and the other political parties in the legislature. …

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