Challenging government: institutional arrangements, policy shocks, and no-confidence motions
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Our understanding of parliamentary politics suggests that no-confidence motions have a critical place in government continuation, reorganization and termination. More specifically, we know that opposition parties use no-confidence motions as a way of removing the government and potentially inducing early elections. Up until now, we know little about either the causes or the consequences of no-confidence motions. In this dissertation, I first develop a formal model of the conditions under which an opposition party will threaten to propose (and eventually propose) a no-confidence motion in the government. The model provides a number of intuitive observations about the behavior of opposition parties and the reactions of governments to challenges. I develop a competence-based theory where opposition parties signal their perception of the government's competence with no-confidence motions. In the game, opposition parties act both in terms of short-term gains as well as long-term electoral gains. This model provides intuitive answers that help us understand the circumstances under which the opposition will challenge the government. The model also provides empirical expectations regarding the probability that the motion is successful, in addition to its long-term electoral consequences. Next, I test the theoretical propositions regarding the occurrence of noconfidence motions on a cross-sectional time-series data set of all no-confidence motions in a sample of parliamentary democracies in the post-World War II era. Even though successful no-confidence motions are relatively rare, they can have profound consequences on policy outcomes. The next section illustrates these consequences, as I find that having a no-confidence motion proposed against them makes governments more likely to be targeted by other states in international conflicts. In the conclusion I summarize the key findings, present the broad implications for the study of parliamentary decision making, and discuss avenues for future research.
Williams, Laron Kenneth (2008). Challenging government: institutional arrangements, policy shocks, and no-confidence motions. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from