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date: 25 May 2017

Coalition Politics and Foreign Policy

Summary and Keywords

Coalition governments are observed frequently in parliamentary systems. Approximately 70% of all governments in postwar Europe have been one type of coalition or another. Israel has never been ruled by a single-party government in its history. Recently, majoritarian systems like Britain produced coalitions, taking many by surprise.

The prominence of coalitions in parliamentary democracies compels researchers to study them more closely. The Comparative Politics literature investigates, in particular, the dynamics of coalition formation and termination, as well as the domestic policy outputs of coalitions, especially compared to governments ruled by a single party.

Coalitions have generated interest on the International Relations front as well. One avenue of research transcends the “political party” as a building block and conceptualizes coalitions as a “decision unit” by focusing on the group of veto players in a regime’s foreign policy apparatus. Another line of scholarship, situated in the “Democratic Peace” framework, looks at coalitions as a domestic-institutional factor to observe their effects on the likelihood of international conflict.

Departing from the “Democratic Peace” tradition, more recent research in Foreign Policy Analysis rejuvenates the study of coalitions in international politics. This literature not only encourages theory development by scrutinizing why coalitions behave differently than single-parties in the international arena but also bridges the gap between International Relations and Comparative Politics. Emphasizing the organic relationship between domestic politics and foreign policy, foreign policy researchers dissect coalition governments to highlight the role political parties play on foreign policy formulation and implementation. This literature also illustrates the merits of methodological plurality in studying foreign policy. Using a combination of comparative case studies, process tracing, Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and regression modeling, it sheds light not only on the broader trends that characterize coalition foreign policy but also on the causal mechanisms and contextual factors which often go unaccounted for in purely statistical analyses. The recent advances in role and image theories in Foreign Policy Analysis are expected to influence the study of coalitions and their foreign policies, offering an interpretivist take alongside this positivist trajectory.

Keywords: clarity of responsibility, coalitions, foreign policy, parliamentary systems, political parties, veto players


Coalition governments constitute a unique decision-making group in politics. They include “multiple autonomous actors” and are characterized by “the absence of any single group or actor with the political authority to commit” the state’s resources (Hagan, Everts, Fukui, & Stempel, 2001, p. 169). Broadly conceived, coalitions may be observed across different regimes and political systems. Because the nature of the group necessitates collective decision-making as opposed to its component actors deferring or submitting to a single leader, coalitions give rise to substantively different decision-making processes and policy outcomes than other forms of government.

Specifically in democratic politics, coalitions have generated scholarly interest precisely due to their fragmented and pluralistic nature. The Comparative Politics school, for instance, emphasizes the formation and termination stages of governing coalitions in parliamentary systems, problematizing when and why political parties of different stripes decide to join or leave them (Browne & Frendreis, 1980; Browne, Gleiber, & Mashoba, 1984; Laver & Schofield, 1990; 1998; Laver & Shepsle, 1990; 1996). Students of Comparative Politics also ask whether coalitions produce public policy differently compared to other types of governments; they seek to highlight the ways in which differences in decision-making mechanisms lead to differences in policy outputs (Bawn & Rosenbluth, 2006; Huber, 1998; Iversen & Soskice, 2006; Tavits, 2007; Tsebelis, 1999). The fact that coalitions make up an overwhelming majority of governments formed in post–World War II Europe (Gallagher, Laver, & Mair, 2006; Kaarbo, 2012), not to mention experiences elsewhere in the world from India to Israel, presents researchers a fruitful empirical setting in which to study coalition governance in comparative perspective.

Coalitions generate interest on the International Relations front as well. Three broad avenues of research on coalitions have dominated the literature. The first of these avenues belongs to the “Democratic Peace” tradition, which has adopted a conceptually narrow approach to defining coalitions. Specifically, it considers coalitions as one among many other domestic political institutions that vary among democratic regimes to demonstrate their effects on the likelihood of international conflict. By the early 2000s, a second line of research had expanded the scope of coalition politics research in foreign policy by conceptualizing coalitions as a type of “decision unit.” This literature points out that coalitions constitute a unique group in foreign policy decision-making by way of having multiple veto players—actors whose approval is necessary to alter an existing policy (Tsebelis, 1995). Deeply entrenched in the comparative case study tradition, this literature has shown that coalitions give rise to distinct decision-making processes due to the ways in which they materialize and the resulting structural constraints they impose on policymakers.

The third and final avenue of research is situated squarely in the Foreign Policy Analysis literature. It not only substantively engages with the coalition theories in Comparative Politics but also borrows from the “decision units” approach by focusing on the foreign policy decision-making dynamics of coalitions. As a result, this literature on “coalition foreign policy” departs from the variable-oriented nature of the “Democratic Peace” tradition to develop a theoretically motivated and methodologically pluralistic study of coalitions in international politics. Do coalitions behave differently than other types of democratic governments at the international level—and if so, what factors and mechanisms explain it?

To these ends, the “coalition foreign policy” scholarship bridges the gap between International Relations and Comparative Politics by bringing the “political party” back into its theoretical underpinnings. As Kaarbo (2015) explains, the foreign policy of a state is hardly immune from its domestic politics. Both in terms of the ways in which it is created and its content once finalized, foreign policy is often influenced by the domestic political landscape. In the context of parliamentary governance, political parties constitute the main building blocks of this landscape. To the extent that preference formation and representation continue to be the primary roles of political parties (Kaarbo, 2015), their constellation in government must shape policy—domestic and foreign. Echoing the Comparativist school, coalition foreign policy scholars thus study precisely these constellations. They introduce the ways in which political parties come together to create coalitions and the degree to which they enjoy a common ideological platform as key explanatory factors to study foreign policy behavior. Moreover, true to their process-oriented background, they highlight the influence of these discrete factors on coalition decision-making. Using both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, these studies reveal dynamics such as junior party hijacking and blame avoidance due to diffusion, making substantive theoretical and empirical contributions to studying coalitions in foreign policy.

An overview of these three branches of literature on coalition politics and foreign policy will be presented alongside a discussion of their key puzzles, empirical findings, and their contributions. An assessment of the current state of the art and some suggestions for future research is offered in the conclusion.

Just Another Independent Variable? Coalitions and the Dispute Behavior of Democracies

The end of the Cold War marked a noticeable shift in International Relations scholarship, where the paradigmatic system-level theories had given way to explanations emphasizing the role of domestic politics. As Stein (2006) argued, this shift captured the decrease in the explanatory power of “systemic constraints” on the international behavior of states, replacing their influence with a broad range of “determinants” defined at the domestic level.

One such possible determinant of international conflict, the state’s regime type, has led to the emergence of the Democratic Peace Theory (DPT) research in the 1990s (Lake, 1992; Russett, 1993). Although the DPT scholarship has established empirically that “the use of force by democracies in large part [resulted] from the domestic circumstances confronting their chief executives” (Auerswald, 1999, p. 469), which domestic political institutions generated those circumstances and their precise effects on the dispute behavior of democracies remained unclear. To address these puzzles, IR scholars turned to the “kitchen-sink” of domestic political institutions: a long pedigree of quantitative research has tested the effects of factors such as the number of parties in government and whether the government maintains majority status in the parliament to explain these regimes’ international conflict behavior (Ireland & Gartner, 2001; Leeds & Davis, 1997; 1999; Prins & Sprecher, 1999). Whereas one group of scholars has demonstrated the constraining effect of coalitions by finding a negative empirical relationship between multi-party governments in parliamentary systems and their dispute behavior (Palmer, London, & Regan, 2004), another group of scholars concluded that whether the government was a coalition or not had no effect on its conflict behavior (Leblang & Chan, 2003; Reiter & Tillman, 2002; see for a review, Oktay & Beasley, 2016).

Focusing primarily on parliamentary regimes, this research has engaged significantly with the Comparativist toolkit for hypothesis generation. Studies employ both the “veto players” thesis, which establishes the constraining effects of coalitions on policy-making due to their inability to “move away from the status quo” (Tsebelis, 1995; 1999), as well as the “clarity of responsibility” thesis, which generates the opposite expectation by arguing that coalitions diffuse voter blame (Anderson, 2000; Hobolt & Karp, 2010; Powell & Whitten, 1993; Vowles, 2010) and facilitates risky behavior abroad (Downs & Rocke, 1995). Other examples such as Palmer, London, and Regan (2004) also demonstrate a closer consideration of coalitions by assessing the impact of party ideology on the government’s propensity to engage and endure in international conflict. Indeed, if multiple actors are obliged work together as partners in a coalition government, where their political preferences lie becomes centrally important to assess their behavior abroad.

Reviewed elsewhere at greater length (Oktay-Karagul, 2014), this research has remained inconclusive, for the most part, due to its still superficial treatment of the key independent variable—namely, coalitions. Put simply, the DPT tradition, or what Oktay and Beasley (2016) call “the first generation studies” of coalitions in foreign policy, disregards the qualitative differences among coalitions at the expense of generating lean, quantitative measures to answer the key puzzle, that is, what causes war. However, as the broader literature in Comparative Politics shows, the ways in which coalitions come together and govern present far greater diversity than it is characterized by the DPT scholarship (Lijphart, 1999; Riker, 1962). Multi-party governments might fail to achieve parliamentary majority due to factors that have already been built into the system (as is often the case in Denmark). When they do achieve majority, they might buttress their position in the parliament by including extra parties in government (as is often the case in Israel). They might choose not to take this route, of course, which leaves greater office payoffs for all the parties in the government, but it also creates exposure to dissolution especially when disagreements surface among those parties (as is often the case in the Netherlands).

It is indeed due to this variation in government structures that neither the “veto players” nor the “clarity” hypotheses finds overwhelming support in the literature. In effect, explaining the foreign policy of coalitions necessitate a closer look at several underlying factors that go unaccounted for in the “first generation” studies—including the coalition’s decision rules, the size of the coalition as defined by the sizes of its constituent parts, as well as its ideological setup as measured by the ideological orientations of the parties that make up the coalition. Moving away from the variable-oriented approach of the DPT scholarship towards the “actor-specific” approach of Foreign Policy Analysis (Hudson, 2005), studies on coalition politics have not only incorporated these nuances, but also demonstrated their effects on foreign policy processes and outputs using sophisticated research methods.

Coalitions as “Decision Units”: How Does Coalition Decision-Making Influence Foreign Policy?

A series of influential articles appeared in International Studies Review in 2001, with the objective of developing a broad, process-oriented approach to studying the decision-making dynamics of foreign policy actors irrespective of the nature of the political regime. This is known as the “decision unit framework,” which proposes a three-pronged template to define the nature of the actor in charge of foreign policy decision-making and trace the pathways that lead to specific decision outcomes for each. Of these, the “predominant leader model” denotes those decision units where a single individual dominates the decision-making apparatus, whereas the “single group model” corresponds to those where all individuals participating in the unit “are members of a single body, who collectively select a course of action in consultation with each other” (Hermann, 2001, p. 57).

Coalitions constitute a distinct decision unit in this framework. They are defined by the absence of an actor “which by itself has the ability to decide and force compliance on the others” (Hermann, 2001, p. 57). As a decision unit, coalitions thus cover a broad range of actors in democracies as well as in dictatorships, where power might be “dispersed across separate factions, groups, or institutions” (Hagan et al., 2001, p. 172).

Within this broader definition, Hagan et al. (2001) put special emphasis on multi-party governments in parliamentary regimes as a type of “coalition decision unit.” In doing so, they borrow substantially from the coalition theory literature in Comparative Politics to discuss “what conditions lead, often contending, actors to achieve agreement on foreign policy,” including the key influence of coalition size and ideology on foreign policy decision-making (Hagan et al., 2001, p. 173). Policy distance and the distribution of preferences among the coalition partners (De Swaan, 1973; Axelrod, 1970; Luebbert, 1984), their willingness to bargain (Dodd, 1976) and engage in political logrolling with each other (Browne & Frendreis, 1980; Hinckley, 1981), the presence of pivotal actors (De Swaan, 1973) or norms of consensus decision-making (Baylis, 1989) are some of the explanations that the authors propose to identify the conditions under which coalitions can facilitate compromise and avoid deadlocks in foreign policy decision-making (Hagan et al., 2001).

Despite some empirical research in this area (Beasley, Kaarbo, Hermann, & Hermann, 2001), the contributions of the “decision unit” framework have been mainly theoretical. One important reason is that investigating the conditions that could influence coalition foreign policy decision-making requires substantive bridge building with other subfields. Comparative Politics is specifically beneficial in this pursuit. It emphasizes the constitutive unit—the political party—as a starting point to understand how coalition governments work. Idiosyncrasies of coalitions that lay at the foundation of decision-making, such as the existence of a pivotal actor in the coalition, the spectrum of policy positions it reflects, or the willingness of coalition partners to logroll with each other, can be identified as long as foreign policy scholars situate “the political party” front and center in their analyses. Put differently, scholars can bring precision and insight to operationalizing “coalitions” and assessing their influence on foreign policy to the extent that they bring parties back in. This not only helps highlight the nuances in coalition politics that go unaccounted for in the “first generation” studies but also provides empirical evidence to substantiate the theoretical advancements made by the “decision units framework.” The “coalition foreign policy” literature accomplishes precisely these goals.

The Best of Both Worlds? Enter “Coalition Foreign Policy”

The “decision unit” framework is deeply entrenched in the “coalition foreign policy” scholarship. This research agenda brings the process-oriented approach championed by Hagan, Hermann et al. (2001) closer to the literature on coalitions in Comparative Politics. In so doing, the studies in “coalition foreign policy” acknowledge and account for the qualitative nuances identified in Comparative Politics that define coalitions and explain policy-making. They also apply this body of knowledge to explicate the unique processes of decision-making and outcomes associated with coalitions in the foreign policy realm.

The key research questions of the “coalition foreign policy” research agenda reflect this approach. Whether coalitions make foreign policy substantively differently than single-party governments—the central puzzle in this literature—builds on the “first generation” studies while shifting the inquiry away from variable testing to theorizing the reasons why coalitions act differently in foreign policy than single-party governments (Kaarbo, 2012; see also Oktay & Beasley, 2016). Subsequent research takes this inquiry further by asking whether foreign policy behavior varies depending on the ways in which the coalition is structured, therefore situating the theoretical debate at the heart of coalition theory. Answering these puzzles requires an in-depth understanding of the content of coalitions—primarily their size and ideological composition as made up by the political parties participating in the government, as well as the processes by which they make policy (Oktay & Beasley, 2016). Moreover, by expanding the scope of international behavior from conflict to include conflict and cooperation, the “coalition foreign policy” literature transforms the conversation where the content of the dependent variable is no longer the theoretical motivation of the research agenda, as the case has been for Democratic Peace scholars (Oktay & Beasley, 2016).

Some of the first contributions to the coalition foreign policy research by Kaarbo reflect precisely these objectives. Her work on the foreign policy decision-making processes of Israeli (1996a) and German (1996b) governments emphasize the influence of pivotal junior partners in coalitions. Pivotal junior parties enjoy the critical number of seats in parliament that is necessary to keep the government’s legislative majority intact. By looking inside the coalition to determine the mathematical distribution of power that exists between its constitutive parts, Kaarbo first acknowledges the ways in which individual parties may hold disproportionate influence in foreign policy decision-making. Having identified these nuances, she demonstrates qualitatively the pivotal junior party’s ability to “hijack” the coalition by threatening to exit and dissolve the government unless its own policy position is adopted as government policy (Kaarbo, 1996a; 1996b).

The “hijacking mechanism” has been investigated numerous times by coalition foreign policy scholars. While Beasley and Kaarbo (2014) seek to account for this explanation quantitatively using foreign policy events data, Clare (2010) constructs more targeted statistical analyses to demonstrate that the pivotal junior parties that fall significantly to the right of the coalition’s ideological position are capable of pulling their governments toward international conflict. Some argue that the junior party’s hijacking power can explain why minimum-winning coalitions engage in more assertive international commitments—conflictual and cooperative—at higher levels of ideological diversity among the governing parties (Oktay, 2014). Indeed, by definition, all junior parties are pivotal actors in minimum-winning coalitions.

Hijacking is a symptom of coalitions failing to correct for their coordination problems. In the presence of several partners with diverse ideological predispositions, the constraining effect of the “veto player” dynamic allows the partner with the critical legislative power to take advantage of this vulnerability. That said, other research on coalition politics suggests that not all coalitions fall prey to such pivotal party blackmail. Coticchia & Davidson (2016) provide a comparative case study of Italian coalitions to illustrate the conditions that prevent the pivotal junior parties from utilizing their hijacking potential. To the extent that the junior parties are located at the extreme ends of the left-right political spectrum and assume issue-specific “niche party” characteristics (Meguid, 2005), they will be less inclined to risk their position in the executive for an issue area that their platforms do not prioritize to begin with.

More critically, key governmental actors such as the party of the prime minister often actively seek to cushion themselves against potential attempts by pivotal junior parties to blackmail the government by adding extra parties to an existing minimum-winning arrangement. Surplus majority, or oversized coalitions, are defined by including at least one party that “can be removed with the remaining members still controlling a majority of seats” in the legislature (Volden & Carrubba, 2004, p. 526). Surplus coalitions not only minimize the risk of hijacking, but also may generate electoral opportunities for decision makers.

One such opportunity is blame avoidance due to diffusion. It suggests that having too many parties in a coalition can be advantageous for the decision makers at election time as it blurs the “clarity of responsibility” in government (Powell & Whitten, 1993) and diffuses voter punishment at the polls (Hobolt & Karp, 2010). In contrast with the expectations generated by the “veto player” thesis, it is thus argued that coalitions can engage in risky or costly foreign policy (Downs & Rocke, 1995). The first-generation studies test this hypothesis using international conflict data, albeit using simplistic measures of coalitions such as whether the government includes one party or many parties. Coalition foreign policy scholarship moves beyond this dichotomy to determine which characteristics of coalitions facilitate diffusion and enable them to engage in more extreme or assertive foreign policy.

To this end, Beasley and Kaarbo (2014) utilize the continuous (parliamentary seat share of the government) and categorical (number of parties in government) measures of government structure simultaneously to observe the “responsibility diffusion” effect, while Oktay (2014) isolates the different types of coalitions introduced in Comparative Politics research—minority, minimum-winning, and surplus majority (Lijphart, 1999)—to differentiate coalitions based both on the number of parties (recall that surplus coalitions always include more parties than necessary) as well as their collective decision-making dynamics (recall that minimum-winning coalitions are more prone to hijacking than surplus coalitions). She finds support for the “diffusion” hypothesis only in the context of surplus majority coalitions (Oktay, 2014).

The “coalition foreign policy” literature thus considers the explanatory power of coalition size seriously. Moreover, in stark contrast with both the DPT and the “decision unit” literatures, it also demonstrates empirically the role of government ideology on foreign policy, specifically with respect to the distribution of policy positions among the political parties participating in the coalition. Indeed, studies on “hijacking” quantitatively show the extent to which the government’s policy output can shift to the extreme (i.e., international conflict) depending on the ideological placement of the pivotal junior partner (Clare, 2010).

Scholars have long emphasized the importance of taking “ideology” into consideration when studying foreign policy in fragmented governments (Hagan, 1993; Rathbun, 2004). However, the task requires substantive effort on the researcher’s part to collect and organize data on party ideology to test expectations concerning the effect of the government’s “ideological cohesiveness” on its international behavior. Oktay (2014) considers the coalition’s ideological cohesiveness alongside its size to explain foreign policy. She borrows from the literature on party politics (Benoit & Laver, 2006; Warwick, 1992; Warwick, 2011) to test whether the degree of ideological cohesion among the parties in a coalition moderates the intensity of its international commitments. While ideological incongruence inside coalitions generally impedes their ability to engage in resource-intensive foreign policy behavior, this study also finds that minority coalitions can overcome their size vulnerability to the extent that they can ideologically divide the parliamentary opposition (Oktay, 2014). This finding echoes the “policy viability” and “fragmented opposition” explanations (Hagan, 1993; Laver & Budge, 1992; Maeda, 2009) found in the Comparative Politics literature, which points out that the ideological composition of the opposition is just as critical to explaining government behavior as that of the government.

The coalition foreign policy literature also challenges the existing debates on coalition governance and further engage with Comparativists by highlighting the importance of coalition formation. Joly and Dandoy (2016) argue, for instance, that the ideological placements and negotiation positions of political parties that participate in coalition talks at the formative stage profoundly shape the coalition agreement—the document that reveals the coalition’s foreign policy priorities. In a similar vein, Oppermann and Brummer (2014) investigate the “pathways” of junior party influence in coalition foreign policy by emphasizing the role of portfolio allocations in this domain. In sum, these authors illustrate the need to take a more holistic look by spending time on the microfoundations of coalition governance: it is not just about explaining the foreign policy of coalitions while they are in government, but also about explaining how they got there in the first place.

Finally, the coalition foreign policy literature demonstrates strong methodological plurality. Studies utilize diverse qualitative and quantitative methodologies to illustrate why and how coalitions behave the way they do in international politics. On the one hand, single and comparative case studies tap into the decision-making dynamics inside the coalition (Kaarbo, 1996a; 1996b). They shed light on contextual factors pertaining to the foreign policy issue (Coticchia & Davidson, 2016) and individual motives that may influence the decision-making process alongside the structural characteristics of the coalition (Kaarbo, 2012). On the other hand, quantitative studies utilize foreign policy events datasets such as the World Events Interaction Survey (McClelland, 1978) and the 10 Million International Dyadic Events dataset (King & Lowe, 2003) to demonstrate the extent to which coalitions exhibit systematic differences in their international behavior compared to other forms of parliamentary government. The symposium on coalition foreign policy in European Political Science provides an extensive account of this methodological plurality in the literature (Oppermann, Kaarbo, & Brummer, 2016).

What Lies Ahead: Concluding Thoughts and Suggestions

Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA) studies coalition politics and foreign policy to identify, first, the constraints and opportunities that coalitions present in foreign policy formulation and decision-making, and, second, to explain the ways in which these forces influence policy implementation and outputs. From the “first-generation studies” situated in the “Democratic Peace” tradition to the “decision units framework,” the common thread that runs through this literature is its emphasis on the content and the decision-making processes of coalitions that constitute them as a unique type of foreign policy actor. This emphasis is seen most clearly in the literature on coalition foreign policy.

Certainly, more work remains. First and foremost, the literature on coalition politics and foreign policy continues to focus on the advanced industrialized democracies in Europe, even though coalition governments are observed frequently outside of this region, including India, Israel, and Turkey. With the exception of key works that study coalition foreign policy decision-making in these contexts (Blarel, 2015; Chakrabarty, 2006; Ozkececi-Taner, 2005), analyses that incorporate the Global South and the Middle East more systematically in the coalition foreign policy research agenda are still lacking. Furthermore, coalitions can be construed more broadly following the “decision units” tradition, still increasing the number of cases available for this research area. As such, an important priority is to develop the theoretical and empirical tools necessary to comparatively study coalitions elsewhere in the world.

The interaction between coalitions and political leaders also provides a potentially fruitful avenue for research. Studies in Foreign Policy Analysis have long emphasized the role of leaders in foreign policy decision-making, particularly utilizing the analytical tools in Political Psychology. The research on leadership traits and foreign policy behavior is especially prolific in this regard (Hermann, 1980; 1999; Kaarbo and Hermann, 1998). For instance, this literature has argued that the ability of the leaders to challenge or respect the constraints of their environment, or their willingness to process incoming information from the environment, can influence the ways in which they behave in the foreign policy domain (Cuhadar, Kaarbo, Kesgin, & Ozkececi-Taner, 2015; Dyson, 2006; 2007; Keller, 2005). Kaarbo (2008) has explained the interaction between psychological and institutional factors in coalition decision-making as an instance of small group dynamics, paving the way for empirical work. What remains understudied, however, is the extent to which the psychological traits of individual political actors—such as prime ministers or governing-party leaders—can moderate the effects of coalition governance on foreign policy. Can a constraint-challenging leader prevent the critical junior partner from hijacking the government and therefore divert the decision-making process? Are leaders who are more inclined to respecting the constraints of their environment also more likely to seek compromise when ideological rifts run deep among the coalition partners? Incorporating the influence of political leaders into the study of coalition foreign policy should provide interesting research trajectories at the intersection of individuals and institutions.

Finally, the “role theory” literature should inform the study of coalition foreign policy by bringing in “identity” back into the debate. “Roles … combine ideational and material factors to get to the bottom of how leaders” conceptions of their country’s place in the world interact with both ideational and material constraints from outside of its borders’ (Cantir & Kaarbo, 2016, p. 4). To the extent that coalitions exhibit ideational plurality among their constituent parts—the political parties—they would impose an undeniable effect on defining what the state’s role is, and how it practices this role, at the international level. Precisely alluding to this debate, Ozkececi-Taner argues that “coalition governments present a potential medium for analyzing and operationalizing how the ‘battle of ideas’ at the decision-making level are influential in affecting foreign policy” (2005, p. 250). Focusing on the dynamics of role contestation inside coalitions will not only contribute to the study of foreign policy, but also facilitate a deeper understanding of the interaction between political parties, their ideologies, and how they define their country’s role in international affairs. Representing a constructivist turn in Foreign Policy Analysis, role theory thus has a lot to offer to the study of coalition politics.


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