Research on Legislative Opposition Power


Parliaments in Central and Eastern Europe. Institutional Separation of Power and the Power to Pursue Policies (with Anna Fruhstorfer, University of Potsdam)
While the voter’s reaction to governmental responsiveness has received widespread scholarly attention, little is known about the strategic use of instruments available to opposition actors to gain voter’s support. Recent research has shown that oppositions widely use tools through which they can influence the legislative process and the government to their benefit. Whereas these contributions analyze tools such as parliamentary questions or no-confidence motions that directly address the government, we look at a tool that more broadly targets the system: constitutional amendments. Research has shown that parliamentary proposals to amend the constitution are numerous but have a lower chance of success than cabinet or presidential proposals. We analyze why parliaments introduce already doomed constitutional amendments and why some of them are successful. We argue that parliamentary actors strategically use constitutional amendments, but, that this decision is dependent on the broader institutional context. We argue that both, the separation of power between parliament and government as well as institutional power granted to opposition actors during the policy-making process influence the use of such initiatives. Drawing on a new and unique dataset, we examine the use of constitutional amendment initiatives across 18 post-socialist countries in Central and Eastern Europe between 1990 and 2014.

The Use of Parliamentary Questions in Competitive Authoritarian Regimes: Evidence from Zimbabwe
Research has emphasized the importance of nominally democratic institutions for the survival of authoritarian regimes. Autocratic leaders use institutions such as elected legislatures to co-opt opposition forces and thereby balance threats from groups within society. However, most scholars have focused on the presence of parliamentary institutions or elections in general, neglecting the micro-logic of cooptation. We argue that fully understanding the role of opposition parties in competitive authoritarian regimes and the extent to which they fulfill the expectations laid out in the co-optation theory requires detailed knowledge about how opposition MPs behave and what the consequences of their behavior are. Focusing on the parliament of Zimbabwe, we analyze how opposition parties strategically use their right to submit questions to the government party. Results show that MPs largely behave as expectations of the co-optation theory suggest.


Voting for Votes: Opposition Parties Legislative Activity and Electoral Outcomes (with Or Tuttnauer, MZES Mannheim)
Scholars frequently expect parties to act strategically in parliament, hoping to affect their electoral fortunes. Voters assumingly assess parties by their activity and vote accordingly. However, the retrospective voting literature looks mostly at the government´s outcomes, leaving the opposition understudied. We argue that, for opposition parties, legislative voting constitutes an effective vote-seeking activitiy as a signaling tool of their attitude towards the government. We suggest that conflictual voting behavior affects voters through two mechanisms: as a signal of opposition valence and as a means of ideological differentiation from the government. We present both aggregate- and indidividual-level analyses, leveraging a dataset of 169 party observations from 10 democracies and linking it to the CSES survey data.

Published article:
Tuttnauer, Or and Simone Wegmann. 2022. Voting for Votes: Opposition Parties´Legislative Activity and Electoral Outcomes. American Political Science Review 116(4): 1357-1374. Article (open access)

Opposition in Newly Democratised Countries (with Aurélien Evequoz)
A large literature exists examining the functions of legislatures and the behaviour of MPs in established democracies. But, little efforts have been made to observe how MPs behave in new democratic assemblies. This article seeks to address this shortcoming through an exploration of the use of parliamentary questions in two new democracies: Kenya and Zambia. Analysing an innovative dataset we present one of the few attempts to directly measure legislative behaviour in new democracies. We examine how the factors found in the literature on parliamentary questions in liberal democracies react to this shift of context and to what degree legislatures in these countries full their core functions. Results show that opposition MPs are not necessarily among the most active but that electoral incentives such as the margin by which MPs have won their seat or the number of voters they represent explain the use and content of parliamentary questions.

Published article:
Wegmann, Simone and Aurélien Evequoz. 2019. Legislative Functions in Newly Democratized Countries: The Use of Parliamentary Questions in Kenya and Zambia. The Journal of Legislative Studies 25(4): 443-465. Article