Martin Gross
Who gets in? The determinants of coalition membership on the local level

5th Annual General Conference of the European Political Science Association, Vienna, 25. bis 27. Juni 2015

While there are several studies on the question ‘Who gets into government?’ in a variety of national institutional settings, there is, however, a lack of studies dealing with this on the local level. This is puzzling for at least three reasons. Local coalition formation is still in some way ‘terra incognita’ despite of the fact that it provides researchers with the possibility to overcome the problematic relationship between theory development and the data that is used to test these theories. Secondly, local institutional settings underwent significant changes – especially by the implementation of direct elections of mayors – and are now often similar to ‘mixed’ (quasipresidential or semi-presidential) national political systems, providing a new field of research to test the well-known determinants of getting into government in such political systems. Thirdly, empirical findings on the national level reveal a variation of the determinants between different political systems. ‘Scaling down’ to the local level is a way to hold constant the institutional setting. This paper focusses on the determinants of coalition membership on the local level by using data on coalition formation, party policy conflicts and specific local institutional features in 29 German cities in the time period 1999-2014. The results show that becoming a coalition party on the local level is not that different from getting into government on the national level. However, the mayor’s party has a significant advantage in the local coalition formation game and parties are more likely to join a coalition if they are ideologically close to the mayor’s party.