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Veto Player Approaches in Foreign Policy Analysis  

Kai Oppermann and Klaus Brummer

The main contribution of veto player approaches in Comparative Politics has been to the study of policy stability and change. Specifically, the argument is that the possibility and conditions for policy change in a given polity and issue area depend on the configuration of veto players and veto points. Most notably, veto player approaches have introduced a general conceptual tool kit that has facilitated the comparative analysis of the dynamics and obstacles of policy change across (democratic and non-democratic) regime types and public policy areas. However, in Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA), references to veto players and veto points tend to be hardly systematic and are mainly used to highlight domestic constraints on preference formation, decision-making, or responses to international crises. Hence, the theoretical and empirical potential of veto player approaches for FPA has not yet been systematically explored. Against this background, the article makes the case that “taking veto players seriously” has a lot to offer to the study of foreign policy. While there are differences between applying veto player approaches in public policy and in FPA (e.g., with respect to the more informal process of foreign policy decision-making or the larger policy discretion of the agenda setter in foreign policy), those differences must not be overdone. Indeed, they point to certain shifts in emphasis and specific methodological challenges for veto player studies in foreign policy, but do not call into question the basic explanatory logic of veto player approaches or their transferability from one field to the other. What is more, the article shows that multiple links between veto player approaches and FPA theories can be established. Generally speaking, veto player approaches have immense potential in reinvigorating comparative foreign policy analysis. More specifically, they can be linked up to FPA works on the role of parliaments, coalitions, or leadership styles as well as on those discussing change, effectiveness, or fiascos in foreign policy.


Coalition Politics and Foreign Policy  

Sibel Oktay

Coalition governments are observed frequently in parliamentary systems. Approximately 70% of all governments in postwar Europe have been one type of coalition or another. Israel has never been ruled by a single-party government in its history. Recently, majoritarian systems like Britain produced coalitions, taking many by surprise. The prominence of coalitions in parliamentary democracies compels researchers to study them more closely. The Comparative Politics literature investigates, in particular, the dynamics of coalition formation and termination, as well as the domestic policy outputs of coalitions, especially compared to governments ruled by a single party. Coalitions have generated interest on the International Relations front as well. One avenue of research transcends the “political party” as a building block and conceptualizes coalitions as a “decision unit” by focusing on the group of veto players in a regime’s foreign policy apparatus. Another line of scholarship, situated in the “Democratic Peace” framework, looks at coalitions as a domestic-institutional factor to observe their effects on the likelihood of international conflict. Departing from the “Democratic Peace” tradition, more recent research in Foreign Policy Analysis rejuvenates the study of coalitions in international politics. This literature not only encourages theory development by scrutinizing why coalitions behave differently than single-parties in the international arena but also bridges the gap between International Relations and Comparative Politics. Emphasizing the organic relationship between domestic politics and foreign policy, foreign policy researchers dissect coalition governments to highlight the role political parties play on foreign policy formulation and implementation. This literature also illustrates the merits of methodological plurality in studying foreign policy. Using a combination of comparative case studies, process tracing, Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and regression modeling, it sheds light not only on the broader trends that characterize coalition foreign policy but also on the causal mechanisms and contextual factors which often go unaccounted for in purely statistical analyses. The recent advances in role and image theories in Foreign Policy Analysis are expected to influence the study of coalitions and their foreign policies, offering an interpretivist take alongside this positivist trajectory.


Two-Level Games in Foreign Policy Analysis  

Eugénia da Conceição-Heldt and Patrick A. Mello

Whether in multilateral negotiations or bilateral meetings, government leaders regularly engage in “two-level games” played simultaneously at the domestic and the international level. From the two-level-games perspective, executives are “chief negotiators” involved in some form of international negotiations for which they ultimately need to gain domestic approval at the ratification stage. This ratification requirement provides the critical link between the international and domestic level, but it can be based on formal voting requirements or more informal ways of ratification, such as public approval ratings. With its focus on government leaders as “gatekeepers” and central actors in international negotiations, the two-level games perspective constitutes a distinct approach in foreign policy analysis and serves to reintegrate the subfields of comparative politics and international relations. While there are similarities to a liberal perspective, two-level games emphasize that executives hold a certain degree of autonomy in their decision making that cannot be purely derived from their constituencies. Unlike realism, however, the approach recognizes the importance of domestic veto players and institutional constraints. Since its inception in the late 1980s, a vast body of literature on two-level games has evolved, including refinements of its theoretical foundation and applications in various policy areas. Against this background, key controversies in two-level games and foreign policy analysis since the late 1980s are examined. The discussion is organized along six debates concerning the levels of analysis, domestic political institutions, the interaction between the domestic and international levels, relevant actors, their interests and preferences, and the relationship between comparative politics and international relations.


The Presidency in Latin American Politics  

Valeria Palanza

Presidents derive support from electoral endorsement at the polls, but once in office, how they exercise power is also determined by the checks other actors impose on the presidency. By design, the presidential system was intended to function within a carefully conceived structure of checks and balances. As the executive branch in a system of separation of powers, the presidency was granted veto power over the lawmaking process. Congress and the judiciary were in turn granted prerogatives to check the executive in its own realm of action. Latin American presidential systems, however, have equipped presidents with extraordinary capacities, setting incentives in a different direction, where presidents often take the place of the most determinative decision maker within the political system. Juan Linz came to believe that presidentialism was not conducive to stable democracy (Linz, 1990), and his influential work spearheaded an era of studies that ultimately contradicted his arguments and led research in a new direction, while the third wave of democracy brought about stable yet unbalanced presidential systems. In order to understand the incentives that underlie this newfound stability, a deeper understanding of the institutional arrangements that govern it is necessary, and key among these, those structured around the legislative process. The institutions that make up the Latin American presidency as it stands in the early 21st century define incentives that lay out its unique character and distinct form of concentration of power. These can be organized into three sets: (a) elections, (b) lawmaking, and (c) cabinet management. Considering the institutions, and practices, that govern these three areas and how they vary across countries provides the building blocks to understanding the complexity of the presidency in Latin America. Whether presidents are elected indirectly via an electoral college or through direct votes by citizens, the specification of the type of majority required to win the presidency, the length of terms, and whether re-election is allowed are details that, when combined in diverse ways, present politicians and citizens with different sets of incentives to govern their behavior. These arrangements underwent different reforms over the turn of the 21st century. The institutions surrounding the lawmaking process are chief in lending the Latin American presidency its reputation of centralizing power, as constitutions are packed with arrangements that blur the separation of powers. Presidential legislative proposal power, presidential control of the legislative agenda through constitutional urgency authority (fast-track), variations in the veto prerogative, variations in override requirements, the delimitation of areas to exclusive presidential proposal rights, restrictions on congress to increase spending, and constitutional decree authority; all of these work to extend the legislative capacities of presidents, enabling them to counter the will of congress in ways unthinkable to the Founding Fathers when they first created this system. Latin American presidents also face challenges in managing cabinets, which in some cases are a fundamental component to articulate coalitions in the legislature—much like in parliamentary systems. Partisan dynamics come to life in the cabinet, and cabinets may work as important tools to manage otherwise fragmented party systems. Finally, understanding the influence of gender on presidential systems presents a promising avenue of research.