The socio-cultural foundation of opposition strategies in parliament.
In: PSA Annual Conference 2008, 1-3 April 2008, Swansea, UK.
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Parliamentary opposition plays a central role within a functioning representative democracy. However, research on it seems to lack theoretical progression and outlook. Attempts to develop Dahl’s (1966) initial theoretical work further are scarce; most recent works by Blondel (1997), and Helms (2004) share Dahl’s approach of referring exclusively to constitutional and institutional aspects of opposition, determined by a countries political, party and electoral system. I will argue on the basis of own research that there is need to add another dimension which considers individual parties’ ideology, history, the party group members’ socio-economic background, their informal rules of engagement etc., as well as more recent theories on agenda-setting (Döring 2005) and veto-player rights (Tsebelis 1995). My research on opposition parties in the Bavarian State parliament (Steinack 2006, 2007) shows contrasting behaviour patterns of the different party groups: While the Social Democrats focused on a strategy of matter-of-fact cooperation and in some controversial legislative cases sought to intermediate, the Green party group chose confrontational power politics which had their main effect outside of parliament. Those significant differences raise the question to what extent party identities and policies coincide with the preference of one opposition strategy over another.
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