Interministerial Coordination


How effectively do informal coordination mechanisms complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination?

Informal coordination mechanisms generally support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
Intersectoral coordination has generally been perceived as an important issue in Finnish politics, but rather few institutional mechanisms have in fact been introduced. One of these is the Iltakoulu (evening session). To a considerable extent, then, coordination proceeds effectively through informal mechanisms. Recent large-scale policy programs have enhanced intersectoral policymaking; additionally, Finland’s membership in the European Union has of course necessitated increased interministerial coordination. Recent research in Finland has only focused tangentially on informal mechanisms, but various case studies suggest that the system of coordination by advisory councils has performed well.
Eero Murto, Power Relationship Between Ministers and Civil Servants, pp. 189-208 in Lauri Karvonen, Heikki Paloheimo and Tapio Raunio, eds. The Changing Balance of Political Power in Finland, Stockholm: Santérus Förlag, 2016.
The strong formal role of Prime Minister Orbán and his Prime Minister’s Office is complemented by informal coordination mechanisms. As the power concentration has further increased in the fourth Orbán government, so has the role of informal decision-making. Formal mechanisms only serve to legalize and implement improvised and hastily made decisions by the prime minister. Orbán travels with his personal staff and rules the country by phone calls as a “remote control” that terrifies medium-level politicians. If the prime minister is not available or not ready or able to decide, issues remain in the air without any decision being made. Orbán regularly brings together officials from his larger circle in order to give instructions. Many decisions originate from these meetings, which subsequently ripple informally through the system before any formal decision is made. These informal coordination mechanisms make rapid decision-making possible. Given the pivotal role of the prime minister, this system encourages anticipative obedience, but also creates a bottleneck in the implementation of decisions and precludes any genuine feedback.
Belgian governments have typically been broad coalition governments (the current government is more homogeneously right-wing, but still includes four parties), and mechanisms such as the council of ministers were established to enforce effective coordination. It is also important to note that party discipline is strong and party presidents are dominant figures able to enforce coordination both within and across government levels (subnational and national). In addition, some of the larger parties have well-organized study centers that provide extensive policy expertise.

The government agreement, signed at the government-formation stage, operates as an ex ante contract that limits possible deviation once the coalition operates. Once the government is formed, decisions are made collegially, and all government officials must defend the decisions made by the council of ministers. Thus, as long as governmental decisions remain within the boundaries of the government agreement, policy proposals are well coordinated.

Importantly, the last elections produced highly asymmetric coalitions at the federal and regional levels. The federal government must be composed of the same number of Dutch and French-speaking ministers. However, only one French-speaking party, the liberal-right MR, is part of that government. The coalition in Flanders is made up of all the Flemish parties in the federal government. In Wallonia, the 2014 – 2019 coalition was initially composed of parties that were in opposition at the federal level, including the Socialist Party (Parti socialiste, PS) and a christian democratic party (Centre démocrate humaniste, cdH) – the socialists were ousted in 2017 and replaced by the liberal Reformist Movement (Mouvement Réformateur, MR). The Brussels government is a six-party coalition with a partial overlap between the federal and regional coalitions. Currently, the capacity to coordinate policy between the federal and the regional governments is thus very limited.

Moreover, the fact that MR is the sole French-speaking party at the federal level puts it in an awkward position, limiting the capacity of the MR prime minister to dictate the policy and behavior of coalition partners.
Informal relations and related agreements, which are very common in Japan, can facilitate coordination but may also lead to collusion. In terms of institutionalized informal coordination mechanisms in the realm of policymaking, informal meetings and debates between the ministries and the ruling party’s policy-research departments have traditionally been very important.

Informal, closed-door agreements on policy are again of considerable importance. The leadership has to navigate skillfully between the coalition partners, line ministries and their bureaucrats, and a more inquisitive public. The Chief Cabinet Secretary is a key actor in this regard. Cabinet meetings are essentially formalities, with sensitive issues informally discussed and decided beforehand. Ministries collect and make public few, if any, records of meetings between politicians and bureaucrats as they are supposed to do under the 2008 Basic Act of Reform of the National Civil Servant System.

The general trend toward greater transparency may have even strengthened the role of informality in order to avoid awkward situations. In mid-2018, an internal document produced by METI industry ministry surfaced that asked ministry officials to avoid noting who said what in minutes prepared after meetings.
Jiji News, Cabinet minutes show formality, no substance, The Japan Times, 5 October 2015,

Enhancing government accountability (Ediorial), The Japan Times, 13 August 2017,

Tadashi Kobayashi and Taiji Mukohata, Japan trade ministry told employees to obscure meeting records, The Mainichi, 30 August 2018,
There are many opportunities for informal coordination, given Luxembourg’s small size, its close-knit society and government administration. Those in public administration responsible for early policy research and formulation, are well familiar with representatives of social organizations and members of civil society research institutions. In such a small state, there are many opportunities for informal contact between public servants and experts from research institutions, business and civil society. Senior civil servants are simultaneously responsible for various projects, have an enormous workload and represent the government within different bodies, boards and committees.
“Participations de l’Etat.“ Trésorerie de l’Etat. 2017. Accessed 23 Oct. 2018.
Bossaert, Danielle (2008): Die Modernisierung der öffentlichen Verwaltung und des öffentlichen Dienstes im Großherzogtum Luxemburg in: Wolfgang H. Lorig (ed.): Moderne Verwaltung in der Bürgergesellschaft, Nomos Verlag, pp. 298 – 312.
New Zealand
In addition to formal coordination, there are a number of informal channels between coalition partners, government and legislative support parties (parliamentary rather than extra-parliamentary), and ministers and their parliamentary advisers. Although media commentary tends to not draw a distinction between formal coalitions (e.g., Labour/NZ First 2017-present) and non-coalition support parties (e.g., Greens 2017-present), the Cabinet Manual seeks to at least formally clarify which procedures should be used as a guideline in case of informal coordination. It is important to mention, however, that the coordination process is largely limited to party leadership and excludes the extra-parliamentary wing of the party (i.e., party members, activists and officials).
Cabinet Office Circular CO (17) 10, Labour-New Zealand First Coalition, with Confidence and Supply from the Green Party: Consultation and Operating Arrangements. December 17, 2017.
Given the small size of the federal administration and the country’s tradition of informal coordination, there is a continuing presence of strong and effective informal coordination. According to Mavrot and Sager, informal coordination not only takes place among administrative units in the seven departments, but also between the respective administrations at the different federal levels.
Mavrot, Céline, and Fritz Sager (2018). Vertical epistemic communities in multilevel governance. Policy & Politics, Volume 46, Number 3, pp. 391-407.
Informal coordination was a hallmark of the Labour governments under Tony Blair (1997 – 2007). However, informal coordination was reduced during the Labour government of Gordon Brown (2007 – 2010) and largely abolished under the coalition government (2010 – 2015), because of the need for avoiding tensions within the coalition. Having returned to one-party government in May 2015, it was expected that informal forms of coordination would become more common again.

Cabinet committee discussions are regularly preceded or accompanied by bilateral meetings of relevant ministers supported by senior officials across government. These will often be chaired by the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster or by other senior ministers.

The divisions within the governing Conservative Party, including among senior ministers, over the United Kingdom’s future relations with the European Union could complicate informal coordination, but – as examples of informal interministerial groups on subjects as diverse as flooding or the 2018 Commonwealth Summit show – it is working reliably in other areas.
Collaborative Civil Service: service-the-estate-strategy-in-action/
In most cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
Information coordination procedures exist at the level of the party, where informal consultations on policies take place on a regular basis to make sure that the party leadership supports the government’s direction. This occurs regardless of which party is in office. The federal system and the division of responsibilities between the federal government and the state and territory governments means that informal coordination is always an important component of any policy that may involve the states. These procedures are ad hoc, and take place at two levels, among ministers from different jurisdictions, and at the level of senior public servants.
Informal coordination plays an important role in settling issues so that the cabinet can focus on strategic-policy debates. Existing informal mechanisms might be characterized as “formal informality,” as informal coordination mechanisms are de facto as institutionalized as formal ones in daily political practice.
The Danish administrative system is a mix of formal rules and norms and more informal traditions. As a few examples, officials hold informal talks in the halls of government, over lunch and during travel to and from Brussels. The informal mechanisms can make formal meetings more efficient. Of course, important decisions must be confirmed in more formal settings. At the political level, informal mechanisms are probably more important than formal ones among officials. The fact that most governments have been coalition governments (and often minority governments) has increased the importance of information coordination mechanisms.
Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen, Peter Munk Christiansen og Marius Ibsen, Politik og forvaltning, 4. udgave, Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2017.
A crucial factor and essentially an invisible coordination mechanism is the “old-boy network” of former students from the grandes écoles (École nationale d’administration (ENA), École Polytechnique, Mines, ParisTech and so on) or membership in the same “grands corps” (prestigious bureaucracies such as Inspection générale des Finances, Diplomatie, Conseil d’Etat and so on). Most ministries (except perhaps the least powerful or those considered as marginal) include one or several persons from this high civil servant super-elite who know each other or are bound by an informal solidarity. These high civil servants (especially “énarques” from ENA) also work in the PMO or the president’s office, further strengthening this informal connection. The system is both efficient and not transparent, from a procedural point of view. It is striking, for instance, how much former President Hollande relied on people who trained with him at ENA and to whom he offered key positions in the political administration – ranging from ministerial positions or the chair of the central bank to many other high offices. President Macron has maintained these informal links.
Most coordination mechanisms are informal and complement the more meager formal coordination mechanisms, such as the infrequently convened cabinet and ministerial committees. Most informal mechanisms are ad hoc meetings among ministers convened at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). Such meetings are followed up by person-to-person contacts between staff members of the PMO and advisers to ministers. In the review period, under pressure to complete the Third Economic Adjustment Program for Greece, informal coordination was frequent and organized by close associates of Prime Minister Tsipras (e.g., ministers without a portfolio) working at the PMO. Since the last cabinet reshuffle of August 2018, there are at least three ministers who are given such successive informal coordination roles. Overall, the trend of informal coordination has increased over time.
All governments in Ireland between 1989 and 2016 have been coalition governments. The 2016 general election produced a Fine Gael-led minority government with nine independent deputies, a government which is dependent on the abstentionism of the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil, in votes relating to confidence and supply.

The impression conveyed by accounts of cabinet meetings is that the agenda is usually too heavy to allow long debates on fundamental issues, which tend to have been settled in various ways prior to the meeting. On the whole these informal coordination mechanisms appear to work effectively (see also Ministerial Bureaucracy on the importance on ministers’ special advisers).

During the 2011 to 2016 coalition government, the need for tight coordination was greater given that this government had to deal with the economic and financial crisis. An Economic Management Council (EMC) was introduced as a kind of “war cabinet.” It was composed of four key cabinet members: the taoiseach and tanaiste (the two party leaders) and the two key economic portfolios, the minister for finance and the minister for public expenditure (one from each party). The EMC also included these four ministers’ top officials and advisers, about 13 in total. The EMC was an inner cabinet that took key decisions – a level of formal tight coordination not previously seen in Ireland. Partly because the crisis had mainly passed, the EMC was discontinued after the 2016 election.
The two most recent Annual Reports on the Programme for Government are available here:
Informal mechanisms of coordination have played an important role under the PiS government. PiS Chairman Jarosław Kaczyński has served as the gray eminence behind the scene. He makes many important decisions himself, and government ministers’ standing strongly depends upon their relationship with him.
South Korea
Most interministerial coordination is both formal and informal in Korea. Informal coordination is typically, if not always, more effective. There is also a clear hierarchy structuring the ministries. Staffers at the newly created Ministry of Strategy and Finance see themselves as the elite among civil servants. However, the leading role of the Ministry of Strategy and Finance is defined by the president’s mandate.
In addition, informal coordination processes tend to be plagued by nepotism and regional or peer-group loyalties, particularly among high-school and university alumni. There has been both cooperation and competition between the ministries. Informal networks between the president and powerful politicians work very effectively in forwarding specific policies. However, these practices can also lead to corruption and an inefficient allocation of resources. For example, the recent Choi Soon-sil scandal took advantage of the prevalence of informal coordination and meetings.
Seungjoo Lee and sang-young Rhyu, “The Political Dynamics of Informal Networks in South Korea: The Case of Parachute Appointment” (2008), the Pacific Review, 21(1): 45-66.
The relative weakness of formal coordination among ministry civil servants in Spain is to some extent compensated for by helpful informal procedures. When interministerial problems cannot be solved informal contacts, or meetings between officials of the various ministries involved are organized. Many policy proposals can in fact be coordinated in this fashion. As senior civil servants are clustered into different specialized bureaucratic corps, informal mechanisms rely often on the fact that officials involved in the coordination may belong to the same corps or share a network of old colleagues. Nevertheless, the existence of specialized corps tends to aggravate administrative fragmentation, since every corps tends to control a department according to its specialization. In this sense, the administration seems to follow a “silo” structure, in which each ministry, department, agency, organism or public entity follows its own operating logic. Within the cabinet, these informal mechanisms are less necessary, since the stable experience of single-party governments with strong prime ministers has up to this point required less coordination than would coalition cabinets.
Círculo de Empresarios (2018), La calidad de las instituciones en España.
Informal mechanisms of coordination among civil servants and higher-ranking politicians alike are common and important in the Swedish system, although they may not always be effective. And yet, informal contacts between departments and agencies are believed to be integral to the efficiency of the politico-administrative system. Informal coordination procedures effectively filter many, but not all, policy proposals.
de Fine Licht, J. and J. Pierre (2017), Myndighetschefernas syn på regeringens styrning (Stockholm: Statskontoret).
Some policy proposals are coordinated through informal mechanisms with government members or across levels of government.

It is worth noting that Canada’s federal system has no formal provisions that deal specifically with federal-provincial coordination. Pressing federal-provincial issues and other matters that require inter-governmental discussions are usually addressed in the First Ministers’ Conference, which includes the prime minister, provincial premiers and territorial leaders, along with their officials. These meetings are called by the prime minister and have typically been held annually, but there is no formal schedule. The lack of any requirement for the conference to be held regularly is cause for concern, as it is critical for first ministers and the prime minister to engage in face-to-face discussions or negotiations, given the many policy areas that demand federal-provincial coordination. The previous prime minister, Stephen Harper, called the last First Minister’s Conference in 2009, but it was a further six years before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, following the election in 2015, meet with provincial leaders again.

To promote provincial-territorial cooperation and coordinate provincial-territorial relations with the federal government, provincial premiers and territorial leaders have met at the Council of the Federation twice a year since 2003.
Informal coordination has played an important role in ensuring efficient policymaking. In addition to contacts between high-ranking civil servants in ministries, the coalition committee and governing bodies of political parties have been key players in this regard. Getting support from coalition partners is generally the first step in successfully passing legislation.
There is evidence that informal cooperation between ministers outside of formal cabinet meetings is increasing. These cooperative ministerial clusters were referred to in the Special Investigation Committee’s 2010 report as “super-ministerial groups.” The SIC report pointed out that examples of such cooperation immediately after the 2008 economic collapse demonstrated a need for clear rules on reporting what is discussed and decided in such informal meetings.

The SIC report also identified a tendency to move big decisions and important cooperative discussions into informal meetings between the chairmen of the ruling coalition parties. In March 2016, revised regulations on the procedures for cabinets were introduced but this only addresses formal cabinet meetings and not informal ministerial meetings. Therefore, we can conclude that the SIC report’s call for clearer regulation has been addressed in part. However, informal meetings continue without proper reporting.
The SIC report from 2010. Chapter 7. (Aðdragandi og orsakir falls Íslensku bankanna 2008 og tengdir atburðir (7). Reykjavík. Rannsóknarnefnd Alþingis).

Reglur um starfshætti ríkisstjórnar. Nr. 292/2016. 18. mars 2016. (Rules on procedures in cabinets).
A coalition council that represents the political parties forming the governing coalition meets for weekly informal consultations. Despite its regular meetings with formal agendas, the council is not a part of the official decision-making process. Given that cabinet meetings are open to the press and public, coalition-council meetings provide an opportunity for off-the-record discussions and coordination. The council plays a de facto gatekeeping function for controversial issues, deciding when there is enough consensus to move issues to the cabinet. The coalition council can play both a complementary role, creating an enabling environment for consensus-building, and a destructive role, undermining the legitimacy of the official decision-making process.

Nevertheless, the secrecy surrounding the coalition council has made it a controversial institution. “Who Owns the State?” – a populist party that won the third largest share of the vote in the 2018 parliamentary election – promised to eliminate the coalition council. Indeed, the government coalition formed in January 2018 no longer has a coalition council to coordinate its political work. Instead, a new collaboration council, with similar functions, has been created.
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Formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination still dominate the decision-making process, despite the emergence of new informal coordination mechanisms and practices at the central level of government. Political councils are created to solve political disagreements within the ruling coalition. In addition, the leadership of political parties represented in the government is often involved in the coordination of political issues. Informal meetings are sometimes called to coordinate various issues at the administrative or political level. Since the Skvernelis government decided at the end of 2018 to make all government meetings public (government sessions had already been public before this decision), cabinet ministers are likely to meet informally on a more regular basis on Mondays.

Furthermore, the 2012 to 2016 government planned to develop a senior civil service stratum, which could actively engage in policy coordination at the managerial level. However, these politically sensitive provisions were later withdrawn from subsequent drafts of the Civil Service Law. A new civil service reform adopted in 2018 did not establish a higher civil service.
The government tendency toward informal coordination mechanisms has increased since Malta joined the European Union in 2004. Many directives from Brussels cut across departments and ministries, and this encourages ministries to talk to each other and work more closely together. Preparations for the EU presidency in January 2017 and the actions taken during the presidency itself raised this informal coordination to unprecedented levels. Currently, the PMO has begun exercising an expanded coordinating role that has advanced progress on a number of domestic issues and policies. Increased overview of ministries by the PMO’s Principal Permanent Secretary and the PM’s own team has enhanced coordination further. Overall, this has resulted from the establishment of the Ministry for European Affairs and Implementation of the Manifesto.
Cabinet ministers meet frequently and keep in close touch with one other on issues of policy. Efforts have been made to encourage cross-ministerial relationships on the level of lower officials as well. There is extensive informal coordination between cabinet and parliamentary committees and party organizations.
Informal coordination mechanisms are central to government functioning and coordination. The horizontal informal links between ministries help compensate for the absence or rigidity of formal horizontal linkages. Informal coordination became even more important as the Socialist Party government depends on the PCP and BE to pass legislation in the parliament.
Informal coordination has played a significant role in policy coordination since the 2016 parliamentary elections. The new coalition decided to establish a complex system of coalition councils. The coalition council, which coordinates the work of various sub-councils and consists of the chairmen of the three parties in government, meets at least once a month and adopts decisions unanimously. After the coalition crisis in August 2017, the leaders of the coalition partners agreed on measures for better communication, including regular Monday meetings, disclosing their proposals to each other no later than 24 hours before the cabinet session and forming a working group for improving communication between the three parties at the local and regional level. In April 2018, the system was further refined, when Peter Pellegrini, the new prime minister, and Andrej Danko, the leader of the SNS, agreed to hold additional bilateral meetings every Thursday. Until March 2018, there was another form of informal coordination in that Prime Minister Fico continued to capitalize on his weakening, but nonetheless strong role as leader of Smer-SD, the leading party in government.
N.N. (2018): Pellegrini and Danko agree on better communication, in: The Slovak Spectator, April 19 (
Slovenia’s tradition of coalition governments has meant that informal coordination procedures have played a significant role in policy coordination. Under the Cerar government, the leaders of the three coalition parties met frequently, making major decisions at coalition meetings that were often also attended by the ministers and from time to time also by the leaders of parliamentary majority groups and coalition members of parliament. In press conferences and public statements after these meetings, very little information about the decisions made was provided to the public. The dominant role of the party leaders within their parties also meant that a considerable amount of policy coordination took place in party bodies. The Šarec government has so far followed this style.
Very little is actually known about informal coordination at the (sub-)Council of Ministers level regarding policymaking and decision-making. The best-known informal procedure used to be the “Torentjesoverleg,” in which the prime minister and a core members of the Council of Ministers consulted with the leaders of the political parties supporting the coalition in the Prime Minister’s Office (“Het Torentje”). Although sometimes considered objectionable – as it appears to contradict the ideal of dualism between the executive and the legislative – coalition governments cannot survive without this kind of high-level political coordination between the government and the States General. Given the weak parliamentary support of the Rutte I and II councils of ministers (October 2010 – February 2017), such informal coordination is no longer limited to political parties providing support to the governing coalition.

Under the present conditions, in which civil servants are subject to increasing parliamentary and media scrutiny, and in which gaps in trust and loyalty between the political leadership and the bureaucracy staff are growing, informal coordination and the personal chemistry among civil servants are what keeps things running. Regarding interministerial coordination, informal contacts between the senior staff (raadadviseurs) in the prime minister’s Council of Ministers and senior officers working for ministerial leadership are absolutely crucial. Nonetheless, such bureaucratic coordination is undermined by insufficient or absent informal political coordination.
R.B. Andeweg and G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and politics of the Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 154-163, 198-203, 220-228.

S. Jilke et al., Public Sector Reform in the Netherlands: Views and Experiences from Senior Executives, COCOPS Research Report, 2013

RTL-Z, Rutte wacht zwaar debat: is de premier nog te vertrouwen
The U.S. government is highly prone to informal coordination, relying on personal networks, constituency relationships and other means. As with formal processes, the effectiveness of such coordination is adversely affected by underdeveloped working relationships resulting from the short-term service of political appointees. The overall or average performance of informal coordination mechanisms has not been systematically evaluated. The Trump administration’s lack of experienced personnel in key agency positions leads to an increased role for informal coordination, often based on various personal networks, such as people connected with Trump’s family or businesses. These arrangements, however, are not sufficiently developed to make up for the lack of personnel and organization in the departments and agencies. The executive branch under Trump has seen calamitous failures of coordination – for example, in the failure to provide timely disaster assistance after a devastating 2017 hurricane in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, and the failure to provide effectively for the humane custody of more than 2,000 children seized in 2018 from asylum-seeking parents at the Mexican border. These failures of coordination, however, largely reflect general problems of understaffing and lack of competent leadership in the departments and agencies in the Trump presidency.
Previous coordination mechanisms – like weekly informal meetings within each cabinet faction and the cabinet as a whole, as well as the regular informal meetings between the chancellor and vice-chancellor – were sufficiently effective. They did not guarantee a smooth decision-making process based on consensus, but did allow the cabinet to make a realistic assessment of what collective decisions were possible or impossible. Informal coordination mechanisms were used to negotiate a compromise when a proposal from one party’s minister was unacceptable to the other coalition party.

The most effective form of informal coordination within the new government seems to be regular, but not formalized meetings between the chancellor and vice-chancellor. During 2018, the first year of the new coalition government, this pattern obviously worked given that no conflicts between the two coalition partners or between different ministers became public.
Informal coordination mechanisms have featured prominently in Czech political culture. The Sobotka and the Babiš government alike have rested on coalition agreements which have included agreements on policies as well as coordination rules. Fundamental issues are addressed at the level of the chairmen of the coalition parties or the coalition council. The most important body is the coalition council. It consists of the chairpersons of the coalition parties and a maximum of three other representatives of the respective coalition parties. Coordination mechanisms at the level of parliamentary and senatorial clubs are also important. Coalition parties also have their expert commissions. The expert commissions of the individual coalition parties communicate among themselves primarily while preparing legislative proposals. Because the Babiš government relies on support from the Communist Party (KSČM), it must also take the latter’s reactions into account.
There are a number of informal mechanisms by which government policy is coordinated. The most important of these is the coalition committee, which comprises the most important government actors (i.e., the chancellor, the deputy chancellor, the chairpersons of the parliamentary groups and the party chairpersons) within the coalition parties. According to the recent coalition agreement from 2017, the coalition committee is expected to meet regularly or can be convened at the request of any of the coalition partners. Effectively, the coalition committee does not meet regularly except in a crisis situation. In 2018, during the escalating conflicts between the minister of the interior, building and community, Horst Seehofer (CSU), and Chancellor Angela Merkel, the coalition committee was unable to resolve the intense political conflicts and to develop coordinated policy responses. For everyday business, the coalition committee typically decides on the basis of the lowest-common-denominator.
Under the Gentiloni government, with the leader of the Democratic Party outside the government, informal coordination mechanisms became weaker and the Treasury acquired a more important role in these informal coordination mechanisms. Under the new Conte government, meetings between the president of the council and the two deputy prime ministers have acquired increased importance. But they are often hastily convened when an internal conflict erupts. This coordination mechanism does not seem to work smoothly, as the two coalition party leaders of the Five Star Movement and Northern League are often busy conducting political campaigns. This can lead to poorly prepared decisions, which later need to be corrected.
In some cases, informal coordination mechanisms support formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
Given the tendency of the Bulgarian political system to produce coalition governments, informal coordination mechanisms have played a vital role. The rules of coordination between government coalition parties or parties supporting the government are traditionally not communicated to the public. It is unclear to what extent informal coordination helps achieve a higher overall coherence of policies.
Israel’s government system is greatly influenced by informal coordination mechanisms, such as coalition obligations and internal party politics. However, due to its highly fragmented party system, it is hard to determine whether they support or undermine formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination. While coordination between like-minded parties may be made easier by the situation, fragmentation may result in stagnation over disputed policies.
“Annual report 61 for the year 2010: Treatment of prolonged interministerial disagreements,” The State Comptroller office website (Hebrew)

Blander, Dana and Ben Nur, Gal, “Governmental coalitions: A steering mechanism in the political system,” in The political system in Israel 2013:ספרים-ומאמרים/הוצאה-לאור/הספרים/הספרייה-לדמוקרטיה/המערכת-הפוליטית-בישראל (Hebrew).

“Coalition management,” the Knesset website: (Hebrew)

Rivlin, Reuven, “The intellectual independency of the Knesset member: the limit of the coalition obligation,” The Israel Democracy Institute (December 2010) (Hebrew).
A number of informal mechanisms for coordinating policy exist, and given the lack of “formal” coordination capabilities within the Mexican administration, informal coordination often functions as a substitute. This is normal in a presidential system where only a few cabinet secretaries have independent political bases. Ministers retain their positions, for the most part, at the will of the president. It is important to note, however, that some cabinet secretaries are more equal than others. The Finance Ministry, and Ministry of the Interior and Police have assumed hegemonic roles under President Peña Nieto. The finance secretary, José Antonio Meade, resigned in November 2017 to run for the presidency as candidate of the incumbent PRI, but lost. Moreover, toward the end of a presidential term, the congruence of formal and informal coordination mechanisms tends to diminish, as has been the case in 2018.
Informal bodies, which are usually made up of senior party members and their personal networks, are typically used to sketch the framework of an issue in consultation with experts, while civil servants develop proposals, and finally the upper administrative echelons finalize policy. The higher levels of the ruling party in particular, in cooperation with ministers who have considerable experience in their fields, continue to form a tight network and contribute significantly to policy preparation.

Informal coordination between the PMO and the presidency allegedly became more relevant once President Erdoğan assumed office, and especially once Binali Yildirim became prime minister. Though the PMO has since been abolished following the transition to a presidential system. Erdoğan regularly meets with line ministers and with the “small cabinet” to coordinate government policies. This type of informal coordination, however, cannot be considered constructive, as it has the potential to replace formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.

The new presidential governmental system, introduced after the April 2017 referendum and the June 2018 elections, is an attempt to promote efficiency and coordination in governmental processes, especially in decision-making and implementation. However, the centralization and unification of decision-making in the hands of the president raises doubts about the sustainability of interministerial coordination.

The effectiveness of the system, which is based on centralization and unification in decision-making, should be reviewed in the near future.

During the review period, President Erdoğan (who is also chairman of the ruling AKP) decided to hold the April 2017 referendum and the June 2018 elections, following an informal agreement with the head of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). As part of the agreement, AKP and MHP campaigned together in the subsequent elections. By doing so, informal politics fundamentally sidelined legitimate forms of decision-making and policymaking, and runs counter to executive politics.
Z.Sobacı et al.,Turkey’s New Government Model and the Presidential Organization, SETA Perspective No. 45, July 2018.
M. Turan, “Türkiye’nin Yeni Yönetim Düzeni: Cumhurbaşkanlığı Hükümet Sistemi,” Social Sciences Research Journal, 7(3), 2018: 42-91. (accessed 1 November 2018)
Informal coordination both between the coalition partners and between different party factions in the HDZ has played an important role in interministerial coordination under the Plenković government. The strong reliance on decisions in coalition meetings or party bodies has helped maintain the tradition of keeping strategic decisions and policy coordination largely within the political parties’ ambit, preventing the development of more formal and transparent mechanisms of policy coordination or a strengthening of the public administration’s role.
A practice of informal meetings exists but is infrequently utilized. During the post-2010 economic difficulties, more formal meetings took place than before. In the period under review, a very small number of ad hoc formal meetings took place. The crisis caused by the collapse of the Cooperative Bank in mid-2018 prompted various meetings searching for solutions that end with the adoption of new rules.
Informal coordination mechanisms tend to undermine rather than complement formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination.
In addition to the formal mechanisms of interministerial coordination, there has been an informal coordination of the government’s work by PSD chef Liviu Dragnea, the “éminence grise” of the government. Barred from becoming prime minister himself by a criminal conviction, Dragnea has been keen on preventing prime ministers to act in too independent a manner. In January 2018, he toppled Prime Minister Mihai Tudose, barely seven months after his predecessor Sorin Grindeanu had suffered the same fate. Thus, the informal coordination within the governing party has tended to undermine rather than complement the formal coordination mechanisms within government.
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