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The Problem of Inter-Party Conflicts in Coalition Governments and its Empirical Analysis

Michelangelo Vercesi
Leuphana Universität Lüneburg
Michelangelo Vercesi
Leuphana Universität Lüneburg
Open Panel

Abstract

Coalition governments are made of two or more parties forced to co-operate one another, at least to keep the cabinet alive. It goes without saying that conflicts between coalition members may pose a very serious threat to the executive’s survival. In spite of its relevance, only a few works have clearly dealt with coalition conflict management. The paper seeks to give a further contribution to the debate by means of an analysis of this issue as a typical coalitional problem of parliamentary systems and to provide suggestions to improve empirical researches on it. In particular, after a clarification of the concept of coalition conflict, I show how conflicts are not exceptional phenomena in coalition’s life, but a frequent and common feature of coalition governments. The implication is that parties in government have often to cope with this, and some sort of conflict management becomes necessary. The second part of the paper is dedicated to a proposal for an in-depth analysis of this kind of interaction. Theoretical and methodological points – such as assumptions; the dependent (conflict management) and independent variables; the case selection; the operationalization of concepts; the choice between qualitative and quantitative methods – are treated in details. Examples are from an ongoing research on Italy. Finally, I argue that a particular research design combined with a qualitative approach may be a very promising way not only to single out the main political factors affecting conflict management in government coalitions, but also to understand how they specifically work in this respect.