Thomas König, Nick Lin, Xiao Lu, Thiago N. Silva, Nikoleta Yordanova, Galina Zudenkova
Agenda Control and Timing of Bill Initiation: A Temporal Perspective on Coalition Governance in Parliamentary Democracies

American Political Science Review, 2022: 116, issue 1, pp. 231 - 248
ISSN: 0003-0554 (print), 1537-5943 (online)

Although democratic governance imposes temporal constraints, the timing of government policy making activities such as bill initiation is still poorly understood. This holds especially under coalition governments, in which government bills need to find approval by a partner party in parliament. We propose a dynamic temporal perspective in which ministers do not know whether they face a cooperative or competitive partner at the beginning of a term, but they learn this over time and use their agenda control to time further bill initiation in response. A circular regression analysis using data on more than 25,000 government bills from 11 parliamentary democracies over 30 years supports this temporal perspective, showing that ministers initiate bills later in the term when their previous bills have experienced greater scrutiny. Ministers further delay bill initiation when coalition parties’ incentives to deviate from compromise increase and when they have less power to constrain their bills’ scrutiny.