Tag Archives: cabinet

Fabian Burkhardt – Future Leaders of Russia?

This is a guest post by Fabian Burkhardt (University of Bremen)

A new generation of government officials is gradually emerging, but old hands in Russia’s institutions have been unwilling to make space for fresh faces.

Between October 2017 and February 2018, a competition was held that received little attention outside of Russia. Almost 200,000 applicants – 90% of whom came from outside of public administration – competed in several rounds for the title of future “Leaders of Russia”. The prize? A top job in the civil service or a state corporation. The finals were held in Sochi at the Siriuseducation center for gifted children headed by Elena Shmeleva, who was one of the three co-chairpersons of Vladimir Putin’s election campaign. And indeed, roughly sixty finalists were appointed in ministries and other federal state organs.

It is tempting to dismiss the competition as yet another Potemkin village to embellish Putin’s rather uninspired presidential election campaign. But there seems to be rather more to it than that. The event was organized by the deputy head of the presidential administration Sergei Kirienko and the Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA). Kirienko’s interest in personnel management is long standing. Back in 2000, when he was presidential representative in the Volga Federal District, Kirienko’s hobby horse had been a recruitment policy known as the “golden cadre reserve”. Several younger bureaucrats, such as economy minister Maksim Oreshkin or Kaliningrad governor Anton Alikhanov, seemed to have been genuinely enthusiastic about boosting vertical upward mobility, unlike some other top officials among the 64 mentors of the program. Also, the unprecedented number of applicants from all over Russia somewhat belies the assertion often met in public discourse that there is a dearth of talent that could be tapped.

The composition of the new Russian government appointed on 18 May by president Putin, however, clearly demonstrated a victory of the cohort of ‘mentors’ over the ‘mentees’, and of horizontal rotation over vertical mobility. Indeed, changes occurred among slightly less than 50% of all cabinet positions, a scale comparable to the transition from Putin’s first to second presidential term when in Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov’s 2004 government, about half of the ministers had already served in Prime Minister Kasyanov’s 2000-2004 government. Yet, in fact, the new government of Dmitry Medvedev, whose reappointment had been anticipated by many, has actually become older by more than four years on average. In 2012, Medvedev’s government had an average age of 47.17 years while in 2018, the mean jumped to 51.27 years. This is consistent with broader trends among the Russian political elite of governors, in the presidential administration and the Federal Assembly: There is an ever widening gap between presidential rhetoric on bringing in fresh faces and the reality of an aging elite trapped in horizontal cadre rotation. Among the ten deputy prime ministers, really only one among the five newly appointed deputy PMs can be considered a clear case of upward mobility. That would be Maksim Akimov, responsible mainly for civil service and digital technologies, who made his career in the rather progressive Kaluga region. Most others have had cabinet experience in various positions at least since the mid-2000s, most notably Tatyana Golikova (minister of health from 2007 to 2012) and Aleksei Gordeev (minister of agriculture 1999-2009). Among the nine newly appointed officials in the rank of minister, the situation looks slightly better: three are former governors (a common pattern of promotion in the past), and four others stem from second and third layers of the civil service and who were now – as part of a more or less systematic cadre management system – promoted to a cabinet position.

One of the most remarkable features of the new government is what analyst Nikolay Petrov has called the rise of the “school of MinFin”, the Ministry of Finance, including two deputy ministers and three ministers with a background in the most meritocratic structure of Russia’s government. The incumbent Minister of Finance Anton Siluanov was promoted to first deputy prime minister, which made him, according to Sergey Aleksashenko, the most powerful Minister of Finance since the legendary Egor Gaidar in 1991/1992. These fiscal experts should not be understood as a team with a common mission, but the preference for nit-pickers clearly demonstrates that the main goal of the government is not so much reform, but the minimization of political and economic risks with tight resources available, and a foreign policy that puts additional strain to the state budget. This fiscal profile has been further strengthened with the appointment of former Minister of Finance Aleksey Kudrin as new Chairman of the Audit Chamber. In the run-up to Putin’s presidential inauguration, rumors had been circulating that Kudrin might be appointed to a leading position in government (such as deputy PM) or in the presidential administration. Kudrin’s new role appears to be further evidence that the role of the new government in the next presidential term will be confined to fiscal management rather than any kind of reformist endeavor.

Structural changes to the distribution of administrative functions among the ministries were also kept to a minimum. Most notably, the number of deputy ministers was increased by one, the previous Ministry of Education was split up into two ministries, one responsible for research, the other for education, and the position of minister for open government (without portfolio) was abolished altogether.

Chicago University’s Konstantin Sonin rated the past government’s performance with a school grade of 4+ (on a scale from 1 to 5, where 5 is the best grade). Judging by the minor fine-tuning of both personal and institutional features of the government, one can assume that president Putin’s overall assessment did not differ much. Moreover, among those deputy PMs and ministers who left government, so far none of them was punished in an all too ostentatious manner by the president that would allow for conclusions about perceived excessive mismanagement or rent-seeking in their policy domains. Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin, for instance, was dismissed from his post heading the Russian defense and aerospace sector only to be appointed as new head of Roscosmos, the agency responsible for the Russian space program. He won this new post even though he had drawn significant criticism both from branch specialists and the wider public.

Overall, both the composition and the appointment process seems to confirm that the government’s main purpose is to minimize political and economic risks, and to guarantee macroeconomic stability. In sharp contrast to the principles of openness and meritocracy espoused during the Leaders of Russia competition, the appointment process was characterised by a lack of transparency and the apparent backdoor haggling by various interest groups. This backroom drive for stability has been highlighted by Russian analysts, and the drawbacks are apparent: For the time being, even any only moderately ambitious reform attempt and upward mobility among civil servants have been jammed.

In terms of policy, the main strategic goals for the period between 2018 and 2024 have been set in a presidential decree on May 7 in a similar fashion to a series of ‘developmental’ May decrees at the beginning of the previous term in 2012. The over-arching goal: a “breakthrough in scientific-technological and socio-economic development.” At the recent St. Petersburg Economic Forum, Aleksey Kudrin compared the new cabinet to a crouching tiger preparing for a big leap forward to achieve the ambitious goals set down by the president. According to Kudrin, since the early 2000s during his time as Minister of Finance, the intra-executive roles have been reversed: back then, the government outlined more ambitious goals that were then reined in by the president. Nevertheless, intra-executive relations in the Russian superpresidential system (president-parliamentary in more technical terms) are still best described in terms of principal-agent relations where the president sets forth wide-ranging goals while implementation is delegated in large parts to the federal government and regional administrations, with all the issues of informational asymmetry and monitoring discrepancies associated with this form of hierarchical control attached.

The urge of top-down strategic planning to a certain degree resembles Soviet five-year plans, according to Vladimir Gel’man. It has led to what Stephen Fortescue calls “policy irresponsibility”: the co-existence of a multitude of strategic documents both on the federal and regional level which posit exceedingly ambitious and compulsory goals that are often mutually contradictory and insufficiently backed by financial resources. Ex-deputy PM Arkady Dvorkovich once complained 70% of his time gets spent solving coordination impasses among ministries in his sphere of responsibility. While the goals are set globally, implementation is done within organs of the executive which form vertical ‘silos’ or ‘wells’ (kolodtsy). In these Kolodtsy, ‘blame’drips downward towards the departmental or even regional level, and between ministries and other federal organs, hampering implementation quantity and quality.

Kudrin and his colleagues from the Center for Strategic Research are well aware of these issues. In one CSR paperfrom late 2016, analysts found that previous key strategic documents such as Strategy 2010 or Strategy 2020 have been implemented by just 30-40%. Under electoral authoritarianism, strategic documents are therefore not so much about achieving the goals stipulated in the documents, but about formalizing vertical monitoring and mechanisms of control. If taken seriously, seemingly meritocratic competitions such as ‘Leaders of Russia’ would actually undermine this form of bureaucratic control. Therefore, with the victory of the cohort of ‘mentors’ within the new Medvedev government, the crouching in the status quo seems to be the main implicit goal for the ‘Russian tiger.’

A version of this article was originally published by Riddle.

President/Cabinet conflict in Poland

Following on from the post about president/cabinet conflict in Romania and Italy, today’s post focuses on president/cabinet conflict in Poland.

To recap, I asked academics to provide a judgment of the level of president/cabinet conflict on a four-point ordinal scale: a High level was indicated as the situation where there was persistent and severe conflict between the president and the cabinet; a Low level was expressed as the situation where there was no significant conflict between the president and the cabinet; and two intermediate levels – a Low-Medium level, and a Medium-High level – where the level of conflict was unspecified.

For Poland, I record scores for 13 cabinet units. I did not ask for scores for non-partisan presidents or caretaker governments. I received seven expert replies. The level of inter-coder reliability was high.

If we assign a value of 0, 0.33, 0.67, and 1 for Low, Low-Medium, Medium-High, and High respectively, then we return the following mean levels of conflict. See Table below.

These results tally nicely with the study by Sedelius and Ekman (2010) and Sedelius and Mashtaler (2013).

References

Sedelius, Thomas, and Ekman, Joakim (2010), ‘Intra-executive Conflict and Cabinet Instability: Effects of Semi-presidentialism in Central and Eastern Europe’, Government and Opposition, 45(4): 505–30.

Sedelius, Thomas, and Olga Mashtaler (2013), ‘Two Decades of Semi-presidentialism: Issues of Intra-executive Conflict in Central and Eastern Europe 1991–2011’, East European Politics, 29(2): 109-134.

President/Cabinet Conflict in Italy – The Results of an Expert Survey

Following on from yesterday’s post about president/cabinet conflict in semi-presidential Romania, today’s post focuses on president/cabinet conflict in a parliamentary country.

It’s easy to dismiss the idea of president/cabinet conflict in a parliamentary republic, but it definitely occurs. Philipp Koeker (2015), of this very parish, has explored presidential activism in certain parliamentary countries in his thesis and forthcoming book. So too has Margit Tavits (2005).

Here, I report the president/cabinet conflict scores for Italy. For Italy, I was looking to record scores for 12 cabinet units. I did not ask for scores for non-partisan presidents or caretaker governments. I received six expert replies. Italy was one of the countries where the level of inter-coder reliability was high.

To recap, I asked academics to provide a judgment of the level of president/cabinet conflict on a four-point ordinal scale: a High level was indicated as the situation where there was persistent and severe conflict between the president and the cabinet; a Low level was expressed as the situation where there was no significant conflict between the president and the cabinet; and two intermediate levels – a Low-Medium level, and a Medium-High level – where the level of conflict was unspecified.

If we assign a value of 0, 0.33, 0.67, and 1 for Low, Low-Medium, Medium-High, and High respectively, then we return the following levels of conflict. See Table below.

As with Romania, the results will most likely not be a surprise for Italy experts. And the keen-eyed will have noticed the correlation between one particular Italian leader and the cabinets with higher levels of conflict.

References

Koeker, P. (2015), Veto et Peto: Patterns of Presidential Activism in Central and Eastern Europe, Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science, University College London.

Tavits, M. (2009), Presidents in Parliamentary Systems: Do Direct Elections Matter?, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

President/Cabinet Conflict in Romania – The Results of an Expert Survey

I am currently working on a book project, part of which involves a study of president/cabinet conflict in Europe’s parliamentary and semi-presidential regimes. Following the example set by Sedelius and Ekman (2010) and Sedelius and Mashtaler (2013), I conducted an expert survey. The survey was conducted between the beginning of August and October 2015. I was lucky enough to receive replies from over 100 academics. I am very grateful and I will acknowledge the help of all the respondents personally in the book.

I asked academics to provide a judgment of the level of president/cabinet conflict in 235 cabinets in 21 countries from 1995-2015. The academics were all political scientists with country-level expertise. I asked them to judge the level of president/cabinet conflict for each cabinet in a particular country on a four-point ordinal scale: a High level was indicated as the situation where there was persistent and severe conflict between the president and the cabinet; a Low level was expressed as the situation where there was no significant conflict between the president and the cabinet; and two intermediate levels – a Low-Medium level, and a Medium-High level – where the level of conflict was unspecified. The number of returns per country ranged from 1 for Malta to 9 for France.

With expert surveys, inter-coder reliability is always an issue. Certainly, there was disagreement among country experts and for some countries the level of inter-coder reliability was surprisingly low. However, Romania was one of the countries where the level of inter-coder reliability was high. Here, I report the president/cabinet conflict scores for Romania. In subsequent posts, I will report scores for other countries.

For Romania, I was looking to record scores for 16 cabinet units. I did not ask for scores for non-partisan presidents or caretaker governments. I received seven expert replies.

If we assign a value of 0, 0.33, 0.67, and 1 for Low, Low-Medium, Medium-High, and High respectively, then we return the following levels of conflict. See Table below.

The periods of conflict will not come as a surprise to Romania experts, especially the seven experts who kindly returned the survey given the level of agreement was high. However, along with scores from the other countries, these results and those like them provide a first step in the process of explaining why president/cabinet conflict varies both across countries and across time in countries. This is the aim of the study in the book that will appear later in the year.

References

Sedelius, Thomas, and Ekman, Joakim (2010), ‘Intra-executive Conflict and Cabinet Instability: Effects of Semi-presidentialism in Central and Eastern Europe’, Government and Opposition, 45(4): 505–30.

Sedelius, Thomas, and Olga Mashtaler (2013), ‘Two Decades of Semi-presidentialism: Issues of Intra-executive Conflict in Central and Eastern Europe 1991–2011’, East European Politics, 29(2): 109-134.

Ukraine – Key Minister Resigns

Two weeks ago, Aivaras Abromavičius, Minister of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine, tended his resignation. Once deemed to be the “man who would save Ukraine’s economy, ” and characterised as “one of the greatest champions of reform“ by the US ambassador to Ukraine, Abromavičius accused senior law makers in Ukraine of corruption and slow pace of reform. His resignation threw Ukraine into yet another political crisis endangering much needed foreign aid and support.

Ukraine struggled with corruption well before the current cabinet was appointed. Corruption was one of the reasons for the 2014 Maidan protests that ousted the former president Viktor Yanukovych. As a part of efforts to combat corruption and to make a break from old political ways, the party of the President, Bloc Petro Poroshenko, decided to nominate Abromavičius, as one of the three foreign born ministers, to the cabinet in December 2014. Yet, more than a year later, Ukraine remains to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world and the most corrupt in Europe.

Last week, Abromavičius published an op-ed in Ukrainska Pravda, an online newspaper, calling for a completely technocratic government. He argued that it was the only way to ensure much needed economic reforms in Ukraine.

If his advice is followed, Ukraine will not be the first country to turn to a technocratic government during an economic crisis. Both Italy and Greece appointed technocratic cabinets during the recent debt crisis. Some scholars have been uneasy about the idea of non-partisan cabinets, especially in the case of new presidential democracies, arguing that they were an indicator that the presidents would be more likely to rule by decree [1]. Others, however, argued that there is nothing inherently undemocratic in having a technocratic cabinet. In fact, a cabinet of technocrats might be exactly what is needed to deal with highly technical tasks that frequently face new democracies, especially when they wrestle with economic problems at the same time [2].

If Ukraine were to appoint a technocratic cabinet, it would need to address a number of issues. First, how can the cabinet be insulated from the influence of political parties? Just because it is technocratic, it does not mean that it is automatically immune to political influence. Second, what would be the term limit for such cabinet, if any? And last but not least, getting an agreement for such cabinet from all coalition partners will be crucial. In Ukraine, like in many multiparty democracies, allocation of cabinet portfolios is one of the most important tools that presidents can use to form and maintain their coalitions. [3] The more proportionally distributed the cabinet positions are among the coalition partners, the higher is the discipline of their legislators on roll calls. [4] If this tool is taken away, Ukraine will need to think of other ways to keep the ruling coalition together.

[1] Amorim Neto, Octavio 2006. “The Presidential Calculus: Executive Policy Making and Cabinet Formation in the Americas,” Comparative Political Studies 39 (4): 415-440.

[2] Bermeo, Nancy. 2002. “Ministerial Elites in Southern Europe: Continuities and Comparisons,” Southern European Society and Politics 7 (2): 205-227.

[3] Chaisty, Paul and Svitlana Chernykh. 2015. “Coalitional presidentialism and legislative control in post-Soviet Ukraine,” Post-Soviet Affairs 31 (3): 177-200.

[4] Amorim Neto, Octavio. 2002. “Presidential Cabinets, Electoral Cycle, and Coalition Discipline in Brazil,” in Morgenstern, Scott and Benito Nacif (eds.) Legislative Politics in Latin America. New York: Cambridge University Press; Chaisty, Paul and Svitlana Chernykh. 2015. “How do presidents manage multiparty coalitions? The coalitional effects of presidential toolbox in Ukraine,” Working paper.

President Buhari names “new” cabinet in Nigeria

Four months after winning power in Nigeria’s first ever transfer of power, President Muhammadu Buhari has finally named his preferred cabinet. According to the president and his supporters, the delay in appointing the cabinet was due to his determination to appoint a set of clean Ministers untainted by the politics of the past. But critics have suggested that a more significant concern was the lack of consensus within the All Progressives Congress (APC) government about how the most important positions should be distributed.

Until Tuesday 6 October, the only Minister that had been officially named and appointed was the president himself, after Buhari decided that he was the only person who could be trusted to fulfil the all important role of Petroleum Minister. One problem with waiting so long to announce his list of preferred candidates was that Buhari built up expectations. It was therefore unsurprising when many Nigerians were disappointed with the list of individuals that the president submitted for vetting to the upper house of parliament, the Senate. This sense of disappointment was exacerbated by four problems with Buhari’s announcement.

The first problem was that Buhari only named 21 of 36 cabinet positions, meaning that Nigerians will need to wait even longer to see the final line-up. The second problem was that while the president named the people he would like to serve in his Cabinet, he did not name the positions he would like them to serve in. This calls into question how effectively the Senate will be able to vet candidates if they do not know what responsibilities they will be required to carry out. The third problem was that – as in the past – there was a depressing lack of women, who comprise just 3 of the 21 people named (14%).

A fourth and potentially more significant problem was that the much-vaunted “new cabinet” was not that new. Key figures within the APC party machine, such as the former governors of Lagos, Rivers and Ekiti states were included. In particular, the fact that Rotimi Amaechi – the governor of Rivers State from 2007 to 2015 – made the list has drawn a lot of commentary. Amaechi was a central part of President Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) political machine and only defected to the APC in 2013. His appointment appears to be reward for his decision to cross the political divide, rather than because he has a reputation for being “clean”. Already, an anti-corruption organization, the Integrity Group, has called for the Senate to reject Amaechi’s candidacy until he deals with allegations of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of fraud relating to the sale of power plants and unlawful payments to Clinoriv Specialist Hospital and Messrs Collect Nigeria Ltd.

However, supporters of the president have pointed out that the list also contains some of the leaders credited with providing development and effective leadership in their areas, such as Babatunde Fashola, who many credit with turning around Lagos State. The list also includes a number of career professionals such as Osagie Ehanire, a surgeon who was trained at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany. However, even this appointment smacks of old political logics upon further investigation, because Ehanire’s most recent high profile role was not that of a doctor, but as the Edo State Coordinator for the president’s election campaign.

Time will tell how many of Buhari’s nominees will make it through the Senate. The ruling APC holds 60 of the 109 Senate seats, and so enjoys an absolute majority. However, disgruntled factions within the APC, who feel that they have not been sufficiently represented within the list of nominees, may seek to expose unflattering information about some of the weaker candidates on the list. This may be the reason that Buhari has decided not to release the names of his nominees for the final 15 positions: by holding them back, he leaves open the possibility that further factions will ultimately be included. This both defers the backlash from those who will ultimately lose out, and means that the president still has a set of valuable positions to give out, which can be used to build support within the APC for his first batch of nominations.

Fernando Casal Bértoa – Party Systems and Governments Observatory (PSGo): A New Research Tool

This is a guest post by Fernando Casal Bértoa from the University of Nottingham.

cv-photo

Have you ever wondered who governs the countries of Europe? Would you like to know who governed your country more than a century ago? Are you not sure about the partisan affiliation of ministers in your neighboring states? Are you interested in discovering how has the (economic and financial) crisis affected the composition of European governments and party systems?

Now a quick answer to all these questions, and more, is possible thanks to a new research project at the University of Nottingham: namely, the Party Systems and Governments Observatory (PSGo), a new research interactive tool (whogoverns.eu)[1] where data on government formation and party system institutionalization in 48 European democratic states since 1848 can be found. European indicates those countries stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals. Democratic refers to those countries displaying (1) a score of 6 or higher in the Polity IV index, (2) universal suffrage elections (including universal male suffrage only, when historically appropriate), and (3) governments formed and/or relying on a parliamentary majority, rather than on the exclusive will of the head of state. States includes those countries recognized by either the United Nations or the Council of Nations.[2]

In particular, and as it follows from the table below, the number of years per country varies between just one (e.g. Czechoslovakia’s Third Republic and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes) and more than a century (e.g. Norway or Denmark). Secondly, the number of political regimes taken into account varies between just one (e.g. Belgium or the Netherlands) and four (France and Greece). Thirdly, the number of electoral cycles taken into account varies between just one (e.g. Greece’s post-WWII Kingdom or Poland’s First Republic) and thirty-three (Switzerland). Finally, the number of cabinets taken into account varies between just one (Czechoslovakia’s Third Republic) or two (e.g. Belarus or Kosovo) and ninety-seven (France’s Third Republic).

European democracies (1848-2014)

Country Period Country Period
Albania 2002- Kingdom of SHS 1921
Andorra 1993- Kosovo 2008-
Armenia 1991-1994 Latvia (post-WWI) 1920-1933
Austria (1st Republic) 1920-1932 Latvia (post-1989) 1993-
Austria (2nd Republic) 1946- Liechtenstein 1993-
Belarus 1991-1994 Lithuania 1993-
Belgium 1919- Luxembourg 1920-
Bulgaria 1991- Macedonia 1992-
Croatia 2000- Malta 1964-
Cyprus 1978- Moldova 1994-
Czechoslovakia (1st Rep) 1918-1938 Montenegro 2007-
Czechoslovakia (3rd Rep) 1946 The Netherlands 1918-
Czech Republic 1993 Norway 1905-
Denmark 1911-1934 Poland (2nd Republic) 1918-1926
Estonia (post-WWI) 1921-1934 Poland (3rd Republic) 1991-
Estonia (post-1989) 1992- Portugal (1st Republic) 1919-1925
Finland (post-WWI) 1917-1930 Portugal (3rd Republic) 1976-
Finland (post-WWII) 1945- Romania 1996-
France (2nd Republic) 1848-1851 Russia 2000-2006
France (3rd Republic) 1876-1940 San Marino (post-WWI) 1920-1923
France (4th Republic) 1946-1957 San Marino (post-WWII) 1945-
France (5th Republic) 1968- Serbia 2001-
Georgia 2004- Slovenia 1993-
Germany (Weimar Rep) 1925-1932 Spain (Restoration) 1900-1923
Germany (post-WWII) 1949- Spain (2nd Republic) 1931-1936
Greece (King. of George I) 1875-1914 Spain (post-Francoist) 1979-
Greece (2nd Republic) 1926-1936 Sweden 1917-
Greece (post-WWII) 1946-1948 Switzerland 1897-
Greece (3rd Republic) 1975- Turkey (post-WWII) 1946-1953
Hungary 1990- Turkey (post-1960 coup) 1961-1979
Iceland 1944- Turkey (post-1980 coup) 1983-
Ireland 1923- Ukraine 1994-
Italy 1948- United Kingdom 1919-

In terms of government composition, the database contains information on cabinet duration (i.e. dates of formation and termination), the names of the various ministerial offices as well as of the people[3] appointed to occupy them, and the partisan affiliation of each minister at the time a particular cabinet is appointed.[4]

In accordance with the party government literature (Müller and Strøm, 2000), the database records changes of government in three different instances:

a) change in the partisan composition of the government coalition,
b) change in the prime minister, and
c) celebration of parliamentary elections.

In case of electoral coalitions, the database also displays information about the partisan affiliation of the ministers belonging to the different parties within the coalition. In those instances when two or more political formations merged to form a new party, the partisan affiliation of the ministers belonging to the parties merged is also shown.

In terms of party systems, and closely following the party politics literature (Bartolini and Mair, 1990; Huntington, 1968; Lijphart, 1999; Mainwaring and Scully, 1995; Sartori, 1976), the database contains operationalisations and measurements for six different classic indicators:

                a) party system institutionalisation, calculated in four different periods (pre-WWI, inter-war, post-WWII, and post-1989),
                b) party institutionalization, calculated according to average party age as well as Lewis’ (2006) index,

c) electoral volatility, measured by Pedersen’s (1979) index,
d) the effective number of (electoral and legislative) parties, measured by Laakso and Taagepera’s index,

e) the number of “new” parties, with at least 0.5 per cent of votes,

f) polarization, calculated as the percentage of votes obtained by anti-establishment-parties, and

g) electoral disproportionality, measured by Gallagher’s (1991) index.

All in all, the database covers 166 years, 66 different historical political regimes, roughly 670 elections, and more than 1600 cases of government formation.

Finally, and for those interested in more than plain data, the Observatory also runs a blog where country experts post their knowledgeable opinions on the latest process of cabinet formation (for example in Bulgaria, Ukraine, Kosovo, Romania), including inside analyses on coalition negotiations, possible government alternatives, future outcomes and expectations, and the like.

[1] See also https://twitter.com/whogovernseu or https://www.facebook.com/whogovernseurope.

[2] As a result, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is not included.

[3] Senior, but not junior (i.e. deputy), ministers are recorded.

[4] Simple government reshuffles (i.e. change of ministers without proper “governmental change”, see above) are not recorded.

Fernando Casal Bértoa is a Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham (UK). He is also co-director of the Centre for Comparative and Political Research at the School of Politics and International Relations. Before he was a Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Leiden in The Netherlands. He studied Law at the University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain) and Political Science at the University of Salamanca (Spain). After specializing in Eastern and Central European Studies at the Jagiellonian University (Cracow, Poland), he obtained his PhD at the European University Institute (Florence, Italy). His work has been published in Party Politics, Government and Opposition, International Political Science Review, South European Society and Politics, or East European Politics.

Algeria: New Cabinet facing growing challenges

On 5 May 2014, less than three weeks after his controversial re-election, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has reshuffled his fourth Cabinet. The newly appointed ministers are well-known figures of the so-called “old guard” – the bulk of the powerful Algerian ruling class – “Le Pouvoir” – the deep-rooted network of politicians, businessman and military figures that has dominated the country since its independence from France.

Former Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal was reinstated, after he resigned expressly to become Bouteflika’s presidential campaign manager. Another pillar of his personal entourage is Amara Benyounes, who was appointed as Trade minister. The prestigious position of Energy Minister went to Youcef Yousfi, former prime minister and loyal to Bouteflika. His position is key as the government has launched a campaign to bolster national energy revenues, which are seen by Bouteflika’s supporters as the main source of national wealth.

Following a tradition of governmental reshuffles in Algeria which are aimed at preserving the status quo, the new Cabinet is likely to solidify Bouteflika’s already immense power, and it is not by chance that it occurred after a failed attempt by the prime minister to incorporate opposition figures into a coalition government.

Whilst opposition groups are very fragmented, naïve, and unlikely to significantly challenge the power of the regime, in the last months they gained visibility by first boycotting the presidential elections and then denouncing the regime of vote rigging, and more generally by refusing to cooperate with the regime. Bouteflika’s attempt to lure them into the Cabinet, regardless of its sincerity, was meant to buy legitimacy for the regime, either by co-opting opposition forces or by creating impression of openness from the side of the President.

However, what the regime is most concerned about is the crystallising alliance between opposition political forces, the civil society and the broader population, which is growing increasingly dissatisfied with the high levels of unemployment rate and poverty throughout the country. Although Bouteflika’s re-election (last 17 April 2014) was more a plebiscite than a genuinely contested election, discontent with the fourth election of the 77-year-old raìs has been particularly strong all over the country. Massive street protests in Kabylie towns of Tizi-Ouzou and Bejaia, and civil society activism, such as the Barakat! (“Enough!”) movement in Algiers, cause headache to the regime.

It is not by chance that Bouteflika emphasised the commitment of the new government to increase energy revenues for the benefit of the whole country. Minister Yousfi has already announced that he will oversee the North African OPEC nations’ efforts to bolster oil and gas production.

Despite the fact that it is very difficult to undermine Le Pouvoir in Algeria, given its pervasive political, economical and security control structure, Bouteflika knows that growing socio-economic discontent is a direct challenge to regime legitimacy.

Venezuela – Nicolás Maduro Begins the New Year with a Cabinet Reshuffle

For many, the New Year represents an opportunity for change. For Nicolás Maduro, the somewhat embattled President of Venezuela, the beginning of 2014 has ushered in a cabinet reshuffle and a reorganization of the nation’s economic management.

On Wednesday January 15th, Maduro, in his first state of the union speech, addressed the national assembly and presented his annual government report. As part of this speech, Maduro laid out his major initiatives for the year. All in all, these initiatives signaled quite a degree of organizational change in both his government and strategy of economic governance.

To begin, he announced the reorganization of his cabinet. José Khan will become the Minister of Commerce, while the Public Banking Ministry and the Ministry of Finance will be merged. Rodolfo Marco Torres, the current Minister of Public Banking, will assume this new expanded portfolio and replace Nelson Merentes as Finance minister. Although Merentes will now be the head of the Central Bank, many see the appointment of Torres, an army general who was part of Hugo Chávez’s attempted coup of 1992, as a clear indication that Maduro is set upon deepening the socialist revolution begun by his predecessor, given Torres is deemed something of an ideologue in comparison to the more pragmatic Merentes.

As part of the realignment of his economic team, Maduro also announced a series of economic reforms aimed at addressing some of the more serious underlying flaws in the Venezuelan economy. These reforms include a strengthening of government control over the national currency, the bolívar. The Foreign Exchange Administration Commission (Cadivi) is to be disbanded and its responsibilities assumed by the National Foreign Trade Corporation (which will now be run by Alejandro Fleming), while the official exchange rate has been set at 6.3 bolívars to 1 US dollar, for the entirety of 2014. Although this was not the currency devaluation expected by economists, given the widening fiscal deficit, the Financial Times has suggested it represents “devaluation by stealth,” as the foreign exchange auction system (Sicad), where the Central Bank sells US dollars, is to be significantly expanded.

Finally, both to further bolster the government’s reforms, and to combat an inflation rate hovering around 54 per cent, Maduro announced the establishment of a 30 per cent ceiling on profits for all businesses, which will be part of the new Law on Costs and Fair Prices.

However, it isn’t all change in Maduro’s Venezuela. Rafael Ramírez will remain as vice-president of the government’s economic cabinet, energy minister and president of the state-run oil company, PDVSA.

Poland – President appoints new ministers following cabinet re-shuffle

After Prime Minister Tusk’s official announcement of a large-scale government reshuffle last week, most of the new members will be appointed by president Bronisław Komorowski today (others will be appointed on 3 December). The changes only relate to ministries headed by Tusk’s own ‘Civic Platform’ (PO), not to the ‘Polish Peasants’ Party’ (PSL) with whom he has been in a coalition since November 2007. The president, who is also a PO member, did not voice any concerns, although he formally possesses some influence on the dismissal and appointment of cabinet members. The changes – which are meant to get the increasingly unpopular government second wind – are as follows:

Ministry of Finance
Mateusz Szczurek (39, male, formerly head analyst at ING Poland) replaces Jacek Rostowski (62, male; finance minister since November 2007, deputy prime minister since February 2013)

Ministry of Regional Development & Ministry of Infrastructure
Both ministries are combined under the leadership of Elżbieta Bieńkowska (49, female) who was until now regional development minister. The last Minister of Infrastructure, Sławomir Nowak (39, male, minister of infrastructure since November 2011) resigned on 15 November this year. Bieńkowska was also made one of the deputy prime ministers.

Ministry of Administration and digitisation
Rafał Trzaskowski (41, male, currently Member of the European Parliament) replaces Michał Boni (59, male, non-partisan, administration minister since November 2011).

Ministry of Science and Higher Education
Lena Kolarska-Bobińska (63, female, currently Member of the European Parliament) replaces Barbara Kudrycka (63, female, science and education minister since November 2007).

Ministry of National Education
Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska (49, female, PO member since June 2011, previously member of ‘Law and Justice’ [currently in opposition] and founder of its splinter party ‘Poland First’) replaces Krystyna Szumilas (63, female, minister of education since November 2011).

Ministry of the Environment
Maciej Grabowski (54, male, under-secretary of state in the Ministry of Finance since 2008) replaces Marcin Korolec (44, male, minister of the environment since November 2011).

Ministry of Sport and Tourism
Andrzej Biernat (53, male) replaces Joanna Mucha (43, female, sports & tourism minister since November 2011).

For a full list of cabinet members, see the website of the Prime Minister’s Chancellery.