Let’s Just Agree to Disagree: Dispute Resolution Mechanisms in Coalition Agreements | Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung

Shaun Bowler, Thomas Bräuninger, Marc Debus, Indridi H. Indridason
Let’s Just Agree to Disagree: Dispute Resolution Mechanisms in Coalition Agreements

The Journal of Politics, 2016: 78, issue 4, pp. 1264-1278
ISSN: 0022-3816 (print); 1468-2508 (online)

Scholars of coalition politics have increasingly begun to focus on conflict within coalitions. Here we examine the role of coalition agreements in managing intracoalitional conflict. We argue that there is a trade-off between making policy agreements at the coalition’s formation (e.g., by making very detailed policy platforms) and postponing the issue’s resolution by creating procedures for settling policy disputes. We argue that the trade-off is increasingly likely to be resolved in favor of relying on a formal dispute resolution mechanism when coalitions are ideologically heterogeneous and the coalition parties differ in size. We test our theory using data from the German Länder between 1990 and 2013. These data allow us to isolate the effects of the bargaining situation and ideology while holding the institutional context constant. The empirical results support our main argument: When intracoalition conflict is high, parties write shorter coalition contracts but are more likely to adopt procedures for conflict resolution.