The aim of this book is to analyse the politics of divided government from a cross-national perspective. The rationale for this aim is that most of the work on divided government has focused on the US. True, in this context there is a voluminous literature on the subject. As a result, there are different interpretations of the term, as well as competing and mutually exclusive explanations as to what causes divided government and how it can be managed. However, while a limited amount of comparative work explicitly on this theme has been undertaken, to date the concept of divided government has remained doggedly US-centric. Thus, the main task of this volume is to examine the experience of divided government, understood in an arithmetic sense, in a variety of institutional and country-specific contexts, so as to identify similarities and differences regarding its causes and the ways in which it is managed.
By its very nature, an exercise of this sort is bound to produce an eclectic set of results. So, for example, while the focus was on the experience of divided government in the arithmetic sense of the term, clear evidence was also provided of divided government in the behavioural sense of the term. In this respect, findings in the Mexico chapter indicated that from 1988 to 1997, once the PRI had lost its super-majority status, the country experienced divided government in a behavioural sense, meaning that there was an ongoing need for cross-party coalition-building. It was also shown that a similar situation occurred on occasions in Finland prior to the 1990s, when a one-third minority in parliament could effectively block government legislation. In a slightly different context, evidence also suggested that in Ecuador divided government was affected by the fluid nature of party competition, which led to continuing problems in coalition-building. All told, to the extent that work on divided government in the behavioural sense has already pointed to links between US-style gridlock and parliamentary-style coalition politics (see Ch. 1), then the evidence from the case-study chapters