Wary Partners: Strategic Portfolio Allocation and Coalition Governance in Parliamentary Democracies

Jorge M. Fernandes, Florian Meinfelder, Catherine Moury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Are political parties willing to partially forgo their office and policy goals to maximize their coalition governance capacities? Multiparty governments are plagued with preference heterogeneity and uncertainty about policy outcomes. In this article, we argue that parties choose to make a strategic allocation of portfolios to curb delegation perils. They use portfolios with jurisdiction overlaps to shadow each other at the ministerial level. We define a wary partners’ situation when different parties control the portfolios that form a jurisdiction combination. We test this hypothesis for 12 West European parliamentary democracies since 1945. Our contribution conjugates a Monte Carlo simulation, which estimates whether real-world distribution differs significantly from expected allocation under nonstrategic behavior, with in-depth interviews with more than 40 former ministers. Results show that wary partners are used extensively as coalition governance mechanisms, particularly because of their capacity to curb information asymmetries and to avoid interministerial gridlock.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1270-1300
Number of pages31
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • Coalitions
  • Delegation
  • Ministers
  • Monte Carlo estimation
  • Political parties


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