Hanne Marthe Narud, "Party Policies and Government
Accountability: A Comparison between The Netherlands and
Norway," Party Politics, 2 (October 1996),
This article deals with the accountability of coalition
governments. How does government responsibility affect
popular support for parties? And how are 'blame' or 'credit'
assigned to members of a coalition government? The core of
the so-called trade-off model, as formulated by Strom
(1990a), is the conflict that parties commonly face between
vote-seeking on the one hand,and policy and office-seeking
on the other. Strom's model is based upon the notion that
governing parties are judged by their performance, and forms
the basis of theories of 'retrospective voting' (Fiorina,
1981). Governing parties may be held to more severe
standards than opposition parties, particularly concerning
consistency between promise and performance. In terms of
vote-seeking it may therefore be a disadvantage to hold
office -this can lead to a negative 'incumbency effect'
Figures and Tables:
Table 1: Types of governments in Norway and The Netherlands,
Table 2: Electoral performance of governments in Norway and
The Netherlands by type of government: Average percentage
gain/loss in seats 1948-94.
Table 3: Gains and losses of Dutch and Norwegian coalition
Table 4: Gains and losses for largest incumbent: Dutch and
Norwegian coalitions, 1948-94.
Table 5: Electoral fate of parties in government,
Our study has involved a limited number of cases from two
single countries. Any serious attempt to explore hypotheses
about the accountability of coalition governments should
base itself on mass-elite studies from a range of countries.
More mass survey data need to be developed, so as to permit
analysis of the question of accountability for individual
parties. All the same, this two-country comparison has
generated insight and knowledge about the impact of
contextual factors upon the relevant actors. It takes us
beyond mere figures and allows for a detailed analysis of
the political process in which political
institutions,historical cleavages as well as individual
characteristics of the actors involved play an important
role. These factors may constitute a fruitful framework for