Cabinet payoffs in coalition governments: A time-varying measure of portfolio importance

Cristina Bucur

Understanding how coalition parties in multiparty governments divide office and policy payoffs is one of the greatest challenges in political science. Gamson’s Law predicts that ministries are allocated proportionally with the coalition members’ legislative seat holding. However, doubts remain about how differences in the valuation of portfolios affect their distribution.

The challenge is not only to determine whether government parties receive their fair share of cabinet payoffs once the importance of individual ministerial posts is taken into consideration, but also to develop a measure of portfolio importance that takes time and context into account. This article proposes a new method of measuring portfolio salience using official records of cabinet appointments in the Fifth French Republic that list ministerial posts hierarchically. The result is a more nuanced measure of portfolio importance, which is context sensitive and varies with time. The article argues that the new measure is able to reduce artificial deviations from the one-to-one linkage of seat shares and portfolio shares and that it can travel beyond the French case.


Party Politics

First published April 29, 2016. 

Published Sep. 14, 2017 9:01 AM - Last modified Sep. 14, 2017 11:08 AM