In case anyone is mildly interested in my masters thesis

by Jake Quinn

The abstract for my masters thesis:

UNLIKELY BEDFELLOWS: MINOR PARTIES AND GOVERNMENT COMPOSITION IN NEW ZEALAND

What are the costs and benefits for minor parties who support government via ‘confidence-and-supply’ arrangements? Such arrangements have replaced formal coalitions in New Zealand since the 2002 election. These agreements see minor parties gain ministerial posts outside of Cabinet and partial access to the leavers of policy-making. However, minor parties face serious costs such as the loss of public support and votes. In fact, every New Zealand minor party who has supported government through a confidence-and-supply agreement has lost support at the following election. To examine the costs and benefits to minor parties of supporting government within the case study period (2002 to 2011), Muller and Strom’s (1999) framework for understanding the motivations and constraints that effect parties entering coalitions is applied to events in New Zealand. Muller and Strom argue that politicians are motivated by competing goals; known as office-seeking, policy-seeking and vote-seeking, and that political institutions, such as electoral systems, play an important role in restricting the options of politicians during government formation.

Coalitional events are examined to ascertain their implications for the minor parties involved. Events examined include the Labour Party’s decisions to turn for support to United Future (in 2002 and 2005) and New Zealand First (in 2005) and the National Party’s decision to form governing arrangements with the Maori Party, ACT and United Future (in 2008). The research concludes that office and policy-seeking ambitions tend to drive the process of minor party support of government, that holding a ‘safe’ electorate seat affords certain minor parties an advantage over others when supporting government, that the policy influence of minor parties has, at times, been significant, and that the high electoral cost of supporting government poses serious questions for the future of the minor parties. The thesis highlights differences between Helen Clark’s and John Key’s governing arrangements, such as Key’s decision to opt for support parties that are not ideologically connected. It then speculates that the Maori Party, because of its ideological uniqueness from the National Party, is in a strong strategic position to claim policy victories and have them converted into vote-seeking success in the future.

Email me for a full PDF version of my Masters thesis if you are interested in reading it. Contact details found above.

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