Comparative Legislation (VERGES)
The project "comparative legislation" studied institutional and party political determinants of regulative and fiscal public policy in parliamentary democracies. Main questions of the project dealt with institutional and political influences on legislation on the one hand and individual influences on the other hand. In parliamentary democracies governments are generally seen as the most important actors in shaping public policies. This project analyzed the influences of formal and informal rules of agenda control and political constellations like the composition of government, the strength of opposition, or the programmatic distances between actors on the success and duration of legislation. Even though governments’ crucial role in determining the legislative output is uncontested, there is a large number of (partly successful) bills from within parliament. Hence, it is also worthwhile to shift the focus to the (individual) parliamentary actors and their agenda setting behavior: The project also investigated whether and how legislative activities of MPs are influenced by idiosyncratic characteristics of the actor (like seniority, position in government or party group, or deviation of individual policy position from party line), by socio-economic factors with which an MP is confronted in his/her constituency, and by electoral system specific incentives. Our results show that going beyond the classic dichotomy between government (including the parliamentary majority) and opposition reveals a differentiated picture of the legislative process: The duration and success of legislative initiatives as well as the extent to which opposition and parliamentary majority cooperate depends on the ideological conflict within and between government and parliament. Positional differences within the government camp also lead to higher levels of oversight of the coalition compromise. The installation of cross-party junior ministers and committee oversight in the legislative process play an important role in this respect. Additionally, relaxing the parties-as-unitary-actors assumption reveals individual patterns of legislative activities which depend among other factors on incentives shaped by the electoral system. Within the scope of the project a unique data set has been created that encompasses information on all bills introduced between 1987 and 2002 in Belgium, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. This information is complemented by political, institutional, and individual data. Election manifestos and coalition programs, which were collected in order to estimate the positions of political actors, are available on www.polidoc.net.