ECPR Joint Sessions
University of Nottingham, Nottingham
25 - 30 April 2017

Achieving Intra-Party Cohesion during Committee Negotiations - The Room for Manoeuvre of Individual Legislators in the Bundestag and the Tweede Kamer

Comparative Politics
Conflict Resolution
Party Members
Decision Making
Tim Mickler
Departments of Political Science and Public Administration, Universiteit Leiden
Tim Mickler
Departments of Political Science and Public Administration, Universiteit Leiden

Objective: The study of party cohesion is often limited to ‘visible’ voting behavior during plenary sessions. In this paper, I analyze how parliamentary party groups (PPGs) in the Tweede Kamer and the Bundestag achieve internal cohesion by focusing on a less visible, but crucial element of parliamentary decision-making: the working procedures of parliamentary committees. Committees are, together with PPGs, the basis for the internal organization of parliaments and the prime organizational structure to prepare plenary sessions and documents. Committees are privileged decision-making arenas: Its members have a claim to work on issues within their jurisdiction once they are assigned. Earlier research has indicated that committees comprise legislators with more or less divergent views from the PPG median. This begs the question how much autonomy is granted to individual legislators and what mechanisms exist to deal with internal conflicts and maintain a level of cohesiveness within committees and the wider PPG.
Method: The analysis focuses on the post-assignment procedure in the Bundestag and the Tweede Kamer in specialized, jurisdiction-specific committees. The theoretical framework disentangles several broad rationales on how committee work is organized. The evidence relies on data gathered from 73 interviews with legislators I conducted in the two parliaments. It specifically covers a legislator’s relation to other ‘rank-and-file’ legislators on the same committee, ‘rank-and-file’ legislators not on the same committee and the PPG leadership.
Result: The interviews in the legislatures uncover distinct working procedures that are established. These perform a constant check on the developed position and allow for the aggregation of divergent views. Individual legislators are able to develop the initial positions with relative autonomy but are subsequently placed in a system of scrutiny through the internal work groups established in the parliamentary party groups. The analysis also highlights informal relationships between legislators outside of the institutionalized patterns.
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