Too difficult to manage, too big to ignore: party choice in multiparty presidential systems


In consensual (proportional) highly fragmented multiparty settings, political parties have two historical choices to make or pathways to follow: i) playing a majoritarian role by offering credible candidates to the head of the executive; or ii) playing the median legislator game. Each of those choices will have important consequences not only for the party system but also for the government. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role played by median legislator parties on coalition management strategies of presidents in a comparative perspective. We analyze in depth the Brazilian case where the Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB) has basically functioned as the median legislator party in Congress by avoiding the approval of extreme policies, both on the left and on the right. Based on an expert survey in Latin America, we built an index of Pmdbismo and identified that there is a positive correlation between partisan fragmentation and median legislator parties. In addition, we investigate the effect of having a median legislator party in the governing coalition. We found that it is cheaper and less difficult for the government to manage the coalition having the median legislative party on board.

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