Bargaining delays in the government formation process

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In parliamentary democracies, the transfer of power from one government to the next is sometimes characterized by long periods of negotiations in which party leaders bargain over the composition and policy objectives of a new cabinet. Although these delays can have substantial political and economic consequences, surprisingly little is known about their determinants. Moreover, the few studies that exist reach contradictory conclusions. In this article, the author examines how factors relating to uncertainty and bargaining complexity influence the duration of the government formation process in 16 West European countries from 1944 to 1998. In line with the article's theoretical expectations, the author finds that factors increasing uncertainty over the type of cabinet that is acceptable always lead to delays in forming governments but that factors increasing bargaining complexity, such as the number of parties and ideological polarization in the legislature, only do so when there is sufficient uncertainty among political actors. The present analysis helps to resolve the contradictory findings in the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-32
Number of pages30
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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