The Ohio State University Press, 1998
Cloth: 978-0-8142-0747-5 | Paper: 978-0-8142-0748-2 | eISBN: 978-0-8142-7873-4
Library of Congress Classification JN3971.A988D68 1998
Dewey Decimal Classification 324.094


Coalition Government, Subnational Style examines parliamentary democracy in subnational legislative assemblies. Comparing three different European democracies—Germany, France, and Belgium—William M. Downs provides a powerful account of the ways politicians and political parties negotiate the composition of new governments following elections in which no single party wins a clear majority.

Downs argues that postelection alliance building is a window onto many of the political processes fundamental to representative democracy: the interpretations of electoral verdicts; the compromises of campaign pledges; the trade-offs between policy and power; the temporary cooperation between long-term adversaries; the collective decision making; and the blurring of lines of accountability through collective responsibility.

The study reports findings from an unprecedented collection of information, including cross-national survey responses, interviews with political elites, and three decades of postelection studies of coalition building in the German state parliaments, the French regional assemblies, and the Belgian provincial councils and regional parliaments. Coalition Government, Subnational Style conclusively demonstrates that the struggles for government status at subnational levels are profoundly important to both parties and voters and that the outcomes of these struggles can result in governments of varying political complexions. Downs's findings question key assumptions of democratic theory and raise important concerns about individual and organizational behavior in changing institutional and electoral environments, ultimately allowing for a deeper understanding of representation, power, and cooperation outside the more familiar arena of national parliamentary politics.