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New publication | Pre-electoral coalitions and the distribution of political power

Pre-electoral coalitions in Finland often form between parties of similar size and ideology, strategically influencing power distribution and potentially broadening the representation of citizen preferences through increased leadership opportunities for smaller parties and a more dispersed seat distribution. Jaakko Meriläinen, Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics at SSE, and co-authors publish new article in Public Choice.

Pre-electoral coalitions (PECs) in Finland are more likely between parties of similar size and ideology and in elections with greater disproportionality or more parties. Voters tend to punish coalescing parties and strategically allocate personal votes within these coalitions, with PECs serving the purpose of influencing power distribution, ultimately resulting in increased opportunities for smaller parties to gain leadership positions and a more dispersed distribution of seats, potentially broadening the representation of citizens' policy preferences.


Pre-electoral coalitions (PECs) may increase parties’ chances of winning an election, but they may also distort electoral results and policies away from citizens’ preferences. To shed light on how PECs shape post-electoral power distribution, we study the causes and consequences of PECs in Finland where elections use an open-list proportional representation system, and parties may form joint lists. We present descriptive evidence showing that PECs are more common between parties of equal size and similar ideology, and when elections are more disproportional or involve more parties. Using difference-in-differences and density discontinuity designs, we illustrate that voters punish coalescing parties and target personal votes strategically within the coalitions, and that PECs are formed with the particular purpose of influencing the distribution of power. PECs increase small parties’ chances of acquiring leadership positions, lead to more dispersed seat distributions, and sometimes prevent absolute majorities. They can thus enable a broader representation of citizens’ policy preferences.

Dept. of Economics Economics Article Journal Paper Publication