Veto Players, Agenda Control and Cabinet Stability in 17 European Parliaments, 1945–1999

  • Thomas Saalfeld
Part of the Studies in Public Choice book series (SIPC, volume 16)


European democracies have experienced significant cross-national and diachronic variations in cabinet duration. Empirically, this chapter seeks to offer some new insights into the institutional sources of such variations, especially with regard to partisan veto players and the role of government agenda powers. The main theoretical interest of this chapter is the extent to which, and in what way, veto player theory helps us to understand the dynamics of coalition politics. George Tsebelis’ veto player theory has not been employed comprehensively to explain variations in cabinet duration. Nevertheless, he himself suggests that core elements of veto player theory, combined with important features of governmental agenda powers vis-à-vis parliaments, might produce a parsimonious, innovative, theoretically consistent and empirically testable model of cabinet durability (including an innovative theoretical conceptualization of exogenous shocks). This chapter is predominantly empirical in character. The main body of the chapter derives five hypotheses from veto player theory, tests them using data from the Constitutional Change in Parliamentary Democracy (CCPD) dataset and finds strong evidence for the importance of the number of veto players as a crucial explanatory variable of cabinet survival (rather than the ideological distance between veto players). It also finds substantial evidence for the importance of agenda powers for the survival of minority cabinets.


Exogenous Shock Veto Player Minority Government Seat Share Positional Advantage 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I owe thanks to Simona Bevern, Simon Fink and the participants of the George Tsebelis Conference: Reform processes and policy change: How do veto players determine decisionmaking in modern democracies? (Mannheim Centre for European Social Research, May 14–16, 2009) for their helpful comments, which have improved this chapter. All remaining opacities and errors are mine.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BambergBambergGermany

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