Presidents and Their Formateurs

28 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2011

See all articles by Royce Carroll

Royce Carroll

University of Essex - Department of Government

Gary W. Cox

Stanford University

Date Written: July 1, 2011


In this paper, we consider the relatively neglected role of presidents in the government formation process of parliamentary and semi-presidential regimes. We call a president with clear partisan preferences partisan and one facing few binding constitutional constraints unconstrained. We advance the following claims and provide evidence for them using data from European parliaments: (1) Partisan presidents, especially when they face a fragmented party system (and are thus relatively unconstrained), are more likely to appoint a formateur from their own party than from another party of equal size. (2) Partisan presidents sometimes manipulate the exploratory scope of the formateur’s mandate - i.e., how many different sets of bargaining partners the formateur can approach. In a departure from the canonical formal models of legislative bargaining, we argue that this variation in exploratory scope leads to significant variation in the formateur’s portfolio “bonus.” Taken together, these findings suggest an important conditional role for partisan presidents in the process of government formation.

Keywords: Coalition Formation, Parliamentary Cabinets, Bargaining, Semi-presidentialism

JEL Classification: C71, D63, D72

Suggested Citation

Carroll, Royce and Cox, Gary W., Presidents and Their Formateurs (July 1, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Royce Carroll (Contact Author)

University of Essex - Department of Government ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester CO4 3SQ, CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

Gary W. Cox

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States
650-723-4278 (Phone)

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