Opposition in Parliament – Causes and Consequences

Democratic elections normally not only lead to the formation of a government but also result in an opposition. In this logic, a democratic election is as much about winning as it is about losing and, hence, oppositions are an inherent part of democracies. Despite this crucial role of opposition parties in democratic regimes, research in political science has mostly neglected oppositions and their role in democracies. This project brings oppositions into focus as crucial actors of the democratic decision-making process and proposes to look at the legislative organization from the perspective of opposition players. The project focuses on the potential influence of opposition players in the policy-making process and presents data on more than 70 national legislatures around the world. The presented index of policy-making power of opposition players includes three different dimensions – initiation, debate, and veto – allowing for a fine-grained analysis of the power of opposition players. Results show considerable variance of the power of opposition players among democracies. A comparison of the power of opposition players when it comes to the initiation the debate, and possible veto power indicates some specific patterns among regions as well as regime types. These different levels of policy-making power of opposition players might have important consequences for the functioning of democracies and individual political behavior alike.
Therefore, in a second step, the project looks more closely into the relationship between parliamentary opposition power and government formation. Whereas a wide literature exists on the government formation process in parliamentary regimes, this process is less investigated in presidential ones. The project looks at coalition governments in presidential regimes and whether strong policy-making power of opposition players can explain the occurrence of such governments. Similarly, a broad literature exists on the occurrence of minority governments in parliamentary regimes. Using the novel data of policy-making power of opposition players, the project investigates whether strong parliamentary opposition power can explain the occurrence of minority government in parliamentary democracies. Although comparative studies on the topic exist, the collected data on policy-making power of opposition parties allows for a more detailed measure of such opposition power and the inclusion of a larger number of cases compared to existing research.