The Allocation of Ministries in Multiparty Governments

63 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2016 Last revised: 15 Jul 2016

See all articles by Lanny W. Martin

Lanny W. Martin

Rice University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: June 21, 2016


How do coalition parties in parliamentary democracies distribute government ministries? The predominant empirical finding from four decades of research is that ministerial portfolios are allocated in such a way that coalition parties receive payoffs that are roughly proportional to their share of legislative seats. I argue, however, that most work to date has limited our understanding of portfolio allocation by focusing solely on numerical payoffs received by parties, neglecting more nuanced policy payoffs associated with holding ministerial posts. I implement a new empirical approach that evaluates the seat proportionality thesis as it pertains to multiple types of payoffs. I demonstrate that: (1) parties distribute both the number and types of ministries in proportion to legislative seat share; (2) concentrating purely on numerical proportionality leads to mistaken inferences about its importance in bargaining; and (3) accounting for policy payoff proportionality vastly improves the predictive power of existing models of portfolio allocation.

Keywords: Coalition Bargaining, Government Formation

Suggested Citation

Martin, Lanny W., The Allocation of Ministries in Multiparty Governments (June 21, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Lanny W. Martin (Contact Author)

Rice University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Houston, TX 77005-1892
United States

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