How Do Minority Presidents Manage Multiparty Coalitions? Identifying and Analyzing the Payoffs to Coalition Parties in Presidential Systems

Published date01 December 2017
Date01 December 2017
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
2017, Vol. 70(4) 762 –777
© 2017 University of Utah
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/1065912917715912
Authoritarian breakdowns in the late twentieth century
gave birth to new political systems that combined directly
elected presidents with multiparty systems. As a result,
the odds that presidents would fail to command single-
party legislative majorities increased. This raised fears
eloquently identified by Juan Linz (1990) and Scott
Mainwaring (1993) that minority presidentialism would
be prone to institutional conflict and breakdown.
As we now know, this danger has been largely avoided.
Like minority prime ministers in parliamentary systems,
minority presidents have mitigated the problem of institu-
tional conflict by building multiparty coalitions. Although
minority presidents (unlike minority prime ministers in
parliamentary systems) do not face the threat of losing
votes of confidence, they still deploy coalitional strate-
gies. Between 1974 and 2013, 52 percent of minority
presidents governing in political systems that met mini-
mum democratic standards formed cabinets from more
than one party (Chaisty and Power 2016).
With coalitional rule today the modal form of gover-
nance in minority presidential systems, the focus of
research has turned to how presidents manage their coali-
tions to ensure legislative support (Chaisty, Cheeseman,
and Power 2014). This work, which has been concerned
with Latin American (mainly Brazilian) presidential sys-
tems, has largely focused on the ways in which minority
presidents share cabinet portfolios with their coalition
allies in return for legislative support. Analysis of
Brazilian presidentialism has found strong evidence to
suggest that cabinet portfolio payoffs strengthen legisla-
tive support for minority presidents (Amorim Neto 2002;
Pereira, Power, and Renno 2005).
However, these theories of coalitional governance have
not been tested outside of Latin America. Cross-regional
research on presidential systems has found little evidence to
suggest that multiparty cabinets raise the level of legislative
voting unity among their party contingents (Carey 2009,
161–62), but this analysis is not concerned with questions
of coalition management. There has also been little consid-
eration of the relative importance of cabinet strategies com-
pared with other strategies of coalition management.
715912PRQXXX10.1177/1065912917715912Political Research QuarterlyChaisty and Chernykh
1University of Oxford, UK
2Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Corresponding Author:
Paul Chaisty, St Antony’s College, University of Oxford,
62 Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6JF, UK.
How Do Minority Presidents Manage
Multiparty Coalitions? Identifying and
Analyzing the Payoffs to Coalition Parties
in Presidential Systems
Paul Chaisty1 and Svitlana Chernykh2
The preponderance of minority presidents in modern democracies has concentrated the attention of researchers
on the multiparty coalitions that presidents form to govern in legislative assemblies. This analysis of “coalitional
presidentialism” has focused almost exclusively on presidential systems in Latin America, and Brazil in particular. It
has understood multiparty presidential coalitions as cabinet-level constructs, which bind the support of parties in
legislatures through portfolio payoffs. In this article, we explore this analysis in a non-Latin American context: post-
Soviet Ukraine. Using original quantitative and qualitative data, we find that portfolio payoffs are an important tool
for managing Ukrainian coalitions. But we also find that minority presidents have relied systematically on the support
of legislative parties outside of the cabinet and have used different payoffs to manage their support. Given that this
complexity also exists in other new democracies, we argue that there is a need to distinguish between cabinet-level
and floor-level coalitions in minority presidential systems.
minority presidents, multiparty coalitions, coalitional presidentialism, Ukraine
Chaisty and Chernykh 763
In this article, we explore how minority presidents
manage their multiparty coalitions to achieve legislative
support in another region: the former Soviet Union. We
focus on Ukraine, which is an ideal case in many respects.
First, with few exceptions, it has been governed by multi-
party cabinet coalitions since 1996 (Chaisty and Chernykh
2015) and it offers rich macro-level data. In these ways,
Ukraine provides a more appropriate point of comparison
with Latin American cases than other post-Soviet states or
even cases of coalitional presidentialism that exist in
Africa. Second, Ukraine is a difficult case with which to
test institutional hypotheses. Extant analyses of Ukrainian
politics have questioned the applicability of notions of
coalitional behavior and have suggested that coalitional
solutions to the problems of limited legislative support are
difficult to operate in the Ukrainian context. Therefore, we
contend that any findings for effective coalition manage-
ment strategies (specifically cabinet portfolio payoffs) in
Ukrainian politics will significantly strengthen theories of
coalition management. Third, the coalitions that deliver
legislative support for Ukrainian presidents contain par-
ties that do not have cabinet representation and are not
motivated by strong programmatic goals. Thus, Ukrainian
presidential coalitions provide an opportunity to explore
the noncabinet strategies that presidents use to manage the
support of coalition parties. This highlights the need to
distinguish broader floor coalitions from cabinet coali-
tions and hence emphasizes the multivariate nature of
coalition management. This distinction between cabinet
and noncabinet coalition parties travels to other cases of
Third-Wave minority presidentialism, where program-
matic party development is equally limited (Chaisty,
Cheeseman, and Power, forthcoming).
In the following sections, we provide an overview of
the relevant literature on coalition management in presi-
dential systems and then turn to an analysis of the cabinet
portfolio payoff hypothesis in the Ukrainian context. Our
analysis, which replicates the empirical research of Latin
American scholars, finds strong evidence for this theory,
even controlling for ideological and electoral factors.
However, in the course of this analysis, we also discover
that Ukrainian presidents have relied systematically on the
support of parties from outside of their cabinets. In account-
ing for the behavior of such noncabinet coalition parties,
we argue it is necessary to examine the other strategies that
Ukrainian presidents use to maintain their support in the
legislature. In this analysis, we use qualitative data on the
motivation of noncabinet parties to join presidential coali-
tions to infer the strategies that presidents deploy.
Coalitional Presidentialism
Coalitional presidentialism is an institutional strategic
response by minority presidents to the challenge of
securing legislative support in multiparty assemblies. The
coalitions that presidents form are not situational or ad
hoc; they are durable and stable alliances that endure for N
units of time or legislative sessions.
In analyzing the strategies that presidents deploy to
augment their alliances, extant research has largely
focused on the ways in which minority presidents distrib-
ute cabinet portfolios to their coalition allies (Alemán and
Tsebelis 2011; Amorim Neto 2006; Amorim Neto and
Samuels 2010). Although most presidents have the uni-
lateral power to determine the composition of their exec-
utives, there are well-known “perils” associated with the
separation of powers, which force presidents to concede
executive authority. The probability that the democratic
legitimacy claimed by both presidents and assemblies
will lead to deadlock and governmental crisis is one of
the main perils facing minority presidents (Linz 1994;
Mainwaring 1993). The formation of multiparty cabinet
coalitions is one way in which presidents have largely
avoided this outcome (Cheibub 2007; Cheibub,
Przeworski, and Saiegh 2004).
The benefits that minority presidents gain from dis-
tributing cabinet authority are well documented in the
research on coalitional presidentialism in Latin America.
Minority presidents who share cabinet appointments with
their coalition allies are found to enjoy higher levels of
legislative support (Amorim Neto 2002; Raile, Pereira,
and Power 2011; Zucco 2009). They increase the likeli-
hood that their legislative proposals will become law
(Saiegh 2011). They expedite the enactment of their deci-
sions (Hiroi and Renno 2014). They strengthen their “leg-
islative shield” against impeachment or removal
(Pérez-Liñán 2007), and they augment the durability and
effectiveness of governments (Martinez-Gallardo 2012).
It should therefore come as no surprise that cross-regional
surveys of members of Parliament (MPs) find portfolio
payoffs to be the most widely used strategy of coalition
management by minority presidents across a broad range
of regional contexts (Chaisty, Cheeseman, and Power,
Minority presidents deploy this portfolio strategy in a
variety of ways. First, they can manipulate the size of their
cabinets to manage coalition support. The likelihood that
presidents will form minimum winning cabinet coalitions
will depend on the reliability of the legislative support of
their party allies, which is contingent upon factors like
levels of party fragmentation, ideological division, and the
electoral cycle (Altman 2000; Meireles 2016; Power
2010). The institutional capacity of minority presidents to
bypass assemblies also affects the presidential calculus
surrounding cabinet size. Factors like the magnitude of the
president’s agenda-setting powers—for example, decree
and veto powers (Amorim Neto 2006; Martinez-Gallardo
2012)—and the institutional constraints that presidents

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