Informations and abstract
Keywords: oalition governments, coalition agreements, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy
In this article, we confronted two views of coalition agreements, one skeptical and the other seeing agreements as a central part of coalition governance, with empirical findings on inter-party conflict during the life time of governments in Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands. Our results support the first view: For three coalition governments in the past fifteen years in each country, coalition agreements are relatively long, complete and precise. Most manifest conflicts were on issues included in the coalition agreement and agreements do commit parties. We expected the role of the coalition agreements to be weaker in Italy than in Belgium and the Netherlands. We observed that Italian coalition agreements are less precise, and that in Italy conflicts were anticipated by the coalition agreement in lower extent than in the other countries, but those conflicts resulted in imposed decisions or, most often, in compromises pretty much in line with the initial deals in the coalition agreement. Thus, we show that, also in Italy, coalition agreements have a substantive role to play. This contradicts the skeptical view that making coalition agreements in this country is merely window dressing and that deals over policy are trivial to coalition governance.