SPIRe Seminar Week 8 “When do coalitions eat their Greens? The electoral outcomes of Green parties in governing coalitions.”

SPIRe’s Week eight seminar will feature SPIRe’s Mr. Conor Little presenting on his research “When do coalitions eat their Greens? The electoral outcomes of Green parties in governing coalitions.” from 12:00-13:00 Wednesday, March 27th  in G316 Newman Building, UCD Belfield.  All are welcome.


As parties of opposition in the 1980s and 1990s, Green parties’ electoral support base grew, albeit slowly and to a modest size. Their mean vote share increased steadily from 2.1% in 1979 to 6.1% in 2003 (Spoon 2011, p.41)2; they gained votes more frequently than other parties (Buelens and Hino 2008, p.159); their growth was crossnationally consistent (Gallagher et al. 2011, p.251; see also Mair 2002, p.136); and once they had passed the threshold of representation, they tended not to go back over it (Müller-Rommel 2002, p.5). Individual parties experienced setbacks (see e.g., Jahn 1993) and the decline of Green parties was forecast from time to time (e.g., Mair 2001, p.103), but the broader story has been one of persistence, incremental growth and stabilisation in the electorate (Richardson 1992, p.20; Dolezal 2010).

Coalition at the national level has presented a new and challenging strategic context for these parties (Müller-Rommel 2002, pp.9-11). In stable democracies, Green parties have participated in coalition as cabinet parties or support parties on 24 occasions, in 23 coalitions, and in 13 countries To date, they have contested post-coalition general elections on 20 occasions. This paper aims to explain why these similar parties4 in similar strategic contexts (i.e., coalition) have experienced diverse post-coalition outcomes. Why do some Green parties in coalition gain votes while others lose? Do the attributes and strategies of these small, marginal parties matter for their outcomes? It draws on theory and existing findings on the cost of governing and electoral behaviour to explain this variation.

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