In this article, we focus on manifest interparty conflict over policy issues and the role of coalition agreements in solving these conflicts. We present empirical findings on the characteristics of coalition agreements including deals over policy controversy and on inter-party conflict occurring during the lifetime of governments in Germany, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands. We analyze the ways in which parties in government were or were not constrained by written deals over disputed issues. Coalition agreements from all four countries include specific policy deals, one third of which are precisely defined. These policy deals concern both consensual and controversial issues. Our central finding is that, in the case of intra-party conflict, parties almost always fall back on the initial policy deals when these exist. As such, policy statements of the coalition agreement facilitate decision making in each of the countries studied.
- Coalition governments
- Post-electoral coalition agreements
- Pre-electoral coalition agreements