Hanna Bäck, Patrick Dumont
Making the First Move. A Two-Stage Analysis of the Role of Formateurs in Parliamentary Government Formation

Public Choice, 2008: 135, issue 3-4, pp. 353 - 373

A standard conclusion of theorists who model bargaining as a non-cooperative game is that the party designated to make the first move—the formateur party—will determine the bargaining outcome. Most empirical studies of parliamentary coalition formation have paid surprisingly little attention to the formation process. In this paper we model government formation as a two-stage unordered discrete choice problem that better reflects this process. The first step involves the selection of a formateur party, and the second involves the choice of partners by the predicted formateur.We evaluate several hypotheses for the two stages, using a data set of all cabinets formed in the Western European countries from 1970 to 2006. In our analyses of formateur selection, we find that party size is clearly the dominant feature. In the second stage, we show that when predicting government composition it is fruitful to add information drawn from a first stage analysis.