Divided government may be defined as the situation where the executive fails to enjoy majority support in at least one working house of the legislature. To date, the study of divided government has been confined mainly to the United States. However, divided government is not confined either to the US or to presidential regimes more widely. Instead, as Laver and Shepsle (1991) have pointed out, divided government can occur in other types of political system as well. Accordingly, this book asserts that divided government in presidential regimes is functionally equivalent to minority government in parliamentary regimes and to both 'cohabitation' and minority government in semi-presidential regimes. This book examines the experience of divided government from a comparative perspective and identifies the similarities and differences between the various experiences of this undoubtedly common form of government.
The book consists of a comparative introduction and conclusion and a series of country studies. In the introduction, the concept of divided government is introduced and the themes of the book are established. The country studies then examine the politics of divided government within this framework. There are three studies of divided government in presidential systems (the US, Ecuador, and Mexico), three studies of 'cohabitation' and/or minority government in semi-presidential systems (Finland, France, and Poland) and three studies of minority government in parliamentary systems (Denmark, Germany, and Ireland). 1 In the conclusion, the similarities and differences between the experiences of the various countries are assessed.
In order to ensure that the case-study chapters follow common themes, the introduction identifies three particular issues which will be addressed throughout the book as a whole. These are the frequency and form of divided government, the causes of divided government, and the management of divided government. The section on the frequency and form of divided government aims to identify how often divided government has occurred in each country and the form that it has taken. Is divided government a regular or an exceptional feature of the political system? Does it take the form of an opposition majority in the both houses of the legislature (where applicable) or just