To what extent does the organization of government provide mechanisms to ensure that ministers implement the government’s program?

The organization of government successfully provides strong mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
In the Canadian system, the prime minister, in consultation with political staff, forms the cabinet and appoints his or her ministers, who serve on a discretionary basis. At the beginning of every mandate, ministers are sent a mandate letter by the PMO. They then work to implement the agenda outlined in this mandate letter, and are evaluated accordingly.
Any cabinet minister who is perceived by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to be a political liability will have a short career. The prime minister and the PMO have an important role in appointing deputy ministers and chiefs of staff. Deputy ministers are appointed by the prime minister on the advice of the clerk of the Privy Council Office. Deputy ministers are promoted (or less often demoted) for a variety of reasons, including the attempt to match their talents to the requirements of the department, efforts to establish a gender and linguistic balance, and so on.
In Sweden, ministers and departments do not implement policy. The task is handled by the executive agencies. A major concern in Sweden is the degree to which ministers can, and should, steer the agencies. Swedish agencies are highly autonomous, but departments can formally steer them by appointing the Director General of the agency, deciding on the regulatory and institutional framework of the agency, and allocating financial resources to specific tasks and programs.

In Sweden, as in many other countries, the relationship between departments and agencies, and the willingness of the latter to implement policies defined by the former, can hinder or enable implementation. In Sweden, the relationship between departments and agencies is an institutional relation, not a personal relation between a minister and the director of an agency. Thus, to the extent that it is meaningful to talk about incentives, they must be organizational incentives. Furthermore, implementing policy is a core role for the agencies, so incentives are hardly necessary.
Premfors, R. and G. Sundström (2007), Regeringskansliet (Malmö: Liber).

Jacobsson, B., J. Pierre and G. Sundström (2015), Governing the Embedded State: The Organizational Dimension of Governance (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
The president has a high level of control over appointments such as agency and department heads. They serve at the president’s discretion and need the support of the White House for their success, both in terms of agency missions and individual careers. Conflicts between the department heads and the White House occasionally emerge, but they are usually limited to a speech or remark that conflicts with presidential policy. As recent presidents have upgraded their ability to monitor agency activities and to draw major issues into the White House, conflicts between the agencies and the White House have largely disappeared. In some cases, agency heads have ignored or discounted apparent orders from President Trump, which have appeared to reflect his spontaneous, un-deliberated responses, often conveyed via Twitter rather than formal presidential documents. We do not consider these instances to constitute failures of compliance.
Strong party discipline and adherence to the Westminster doctrine of cabinet collective responsibility ensure that ministers have strong incentives to implement the government’s program, rather than follow their own self-interest. Australian prime ministers are very dependent on their party caucuses and cannot govern against the majority in the caucus. Labor prime ministers in particular are limited in their choice of ministers, and typically have to accept the nominations of the various party factions. The recent successful challenges demonstrated that Liberal prime ministers are also increasingly dependent on their caucuses. Moreover, the fluctuations in the Prime Minister’s Office have contributed to weaker discipline in cabinet. In recent years, cabinet collective responsibility has suffered an occasional blow.
Pat Weller, Prime ministers, in: Brian Galligan; Winsome Roberts, The Oxford Companion to Australian Politics, Sydney: Oxford University Press 2007, S. 460 - 463.
The president annually evaluates his or her ministers’ policy performance. In a commission consisting of the president’s advisory ministry (Secretaría General de la Presidencia, Segpres) and budgetary units of the government, ministers have to present their sectoral priorities, and if necessary, arrangements and modifications are made to ensure alignment with the government program.
Denmark has parliamentary rule. The government can be forced to retire any time if in the minority in parliament. The prime minister is the leader of the government, and he or she does not allow ministers to pursue interests that are not compatible with the declared goals of the government. Close scrutiny by parliament, including by parliamentary committees and an attentive press, seldom allows rogue ministers to behave this way for long. The prime minister can both fire and promote ministers, so there are incentives to do what the prime minister expects. Party members can of course revolt against a prime minister, but this happens rarely in Denmark. There is a high degree of party discipline.
Carsten Henrichsen, Offentlig Forvaltning. 2. ed. Copenhagen: Forlaget Thomson, 2006.
Compliance by ministers, when compared internationally, is good, as a minister can be dismissed at any time and without explanation. In the French majority system and in the absence of real coalition governments, the ministers, who are nominated by the president, are largely loyal to him. Together with the effective hierarchical steering of governmental action, ministers have strong incentives to implement the government’s program, following guidelines set up by the president and prime minister. This statement remains true but is highly dependent on the leadership capacities of the president and prime minister. Unlike his predecessor, Macron has made clear that strict compliance is expected from ministers, and there is no doubt that his leadership and policy choices will be supported by ministers who, for most, are not professional politicians.
Ministers usually follow party lines, but individual ministers have considerable authority to make independent decisions. Even so, non-collective decisions are rare.

Under the 2009 – 2013 cabinet, dissent among ministers occurred, but it had little to do with specific ministerial actions. Subsequent cabinets have experienced no such ministerial discord – except the aforementioned episode involving former Prime Minister Gunnlaugsson in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal in 2016.
Organizational devices that encourage ministerial compliance include: a public statement of policy intent, a government declaration signed by each minister, a coalition agreement outlining the terms of cooperation between the governing parties and an informal weekly coalition-council meeting. Additionally, the government office monitors compliance with cabinet decisions, while the PKC monitors implementation of the government declaration. Both reporting streams enable the prime minister to fully monitor individual ministers’ progress in achieving the government’s program. Nevertheless, disagreements between ministers regularly become public and can be divisive. Most recently, ministers have disagreed over the EU migrant relocation scheme and tax system reform.
New Zealand
There is a strong tradition of a highly cohesive system of cabinet government. Ministers are allowed to disagree over policy initiatives – even in public – but once a decision has been made in cabinet, they must follow the collective will. The prime minister has the power to appoint and dismiss ministers (formally it is the governor-general who does this on the advice of the prime minister). Labour party ministers are appointed through a process of election by all the party’s parliamentarians, with the prime minister’s direct power being largely limited to the ranking of ministers and allocation of portfolios. Naturally, in coalition governments or minority governments with support agreements with other parties, the prime minister’s power over the personnel of another party is somewhat restricted, although the actual number of cabinet positions assigned to each small party is largely a matter for the prime minister.

Collective responsibility within a formal coalition arrangement is strengthened by an extensive list of coalition management instruments, based on a comprehensive coalition agreement regarding the legislative agenda but also procedures to ensure coalition discipline. There are also procedures for dealing with a minority government.
Coalition partners are not bound by collective responsibility. Rather, they are brought into cabinet meetings only to discuss their own portfolio issues, so that they may retain the freedom to disagree with the lead party in the government should they so wish.
Cabinet Office Circular CO (15) 1 (Wellington: Cabinet Office 2015).
There is a strong tradition of united cabinet government in Norway. The cabinet meets several times a week, and government decisions formally need to be made in cabinet. The convention of close ministerial cooperation increases ministers’ identification with the government’s program and makes the government work as a team. As long as divisions between coalition partners are not strong, this system guarantees relatively strong cabinet cohesion, as has been the experience in recent years.
South Korea
Ministers in South Korea do not have their own political base, and thus depend almost solely on the support of the president. The president has the authority to appoint and dismiss ministers, and frequently reshuffles the cabinet. This high degree of turnover limits ministers’ independence, as they are unable to develop their own voice to pursue their own or institutional policy ideas. The recent resistance to reform from within the prosecutors’ ranks showed that implementation mechanisms have not worked successfully in this area.
All prime ministers since the restoration of democracy in 1977 have presided over single-party governments, despite every government since 2015 failing to secure an absolute majority. Thus, all ministries are chaired by members or persons close to the same party. The prime minister (who is the leader of the governing party) is free to reorganize government structures and dismiss ministers he does not consider able or willing to implement the government’s program.

The constitution (which stipulates that parliamentary confidence rests personally with the prime minister and his comprehensive government program), internal party discipline and the organization of the executive thus all provide strong incentives for all ministers to implement the overall government program rather than seeking to realize the sectoral interests of their individual departments. However, the fact that the government’s hierarchical organizational devices provide these potentially strong incentives does not necessarily ensure that ministers always subordinate their sectoral self-interest to the general interests of the government. Since April 2019, Spain’s caretaker government has had limited room for maneuver, which has limited the sectoral self-interest of line ministries in the ordinary office of public affairs.
The organization of government provides some mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
One must distinguish de jure powers from the government’s de facto powers to provide incentives to each minister. De jure, the prime minister has little power to exclude ministers from the government. The main architects of government positions are the party presidents who, at the government-formation stage, negotiate for control of the various portfolios and then nominate their people. Every minister’s primary incentive is thus to push his or her own party’s views, rather than the government’s potential view.

That said, this hierarchical structure is actually able to impose strong discipline on each minister when the incentives of party presidents are sufficiently aligned with those of the government. As detailed in other questions, this alignment ceased in December 2018, triggering the end of the coalition.
Estonia typically has coalition governments; reaching an agreement on priorities and goals of the future government is the core issue of the cabinet-formation process. After a coalition cabinet is sworn in, it generally acts in accordance with the government program and rules of procedure signed by all coalition partners. The process of program implementation is coordinated by the coalition committee, comprised of a representative of each coalition partner. Compared to some previous governments, the sitting coalition places less emphasis on the coalition committee, instead discussing most issues openly at cabinet meetings. Government decisions are made on the basis of consensus, which empowers a junior coalition partner to block a policy decision agreed by the other coalition partners.
A number of mechanisms are in place that serve to bind ministers to the government’s program. Government programs result from negotiations between the political parties forming the government; in consequence, the coalition partners and ministries closely monitor implementation. Cabinet agenda issues are generally prepared, discussed and coordinated in cabinet committees as well as in informal groups and meetings. On the whole, ministers are closely watched and are expected to be integral parts of cooperative units. They would no doubt find it difficult as well as unrewarding to pursue paths of narrow self-interest. Nevertheless, attempts by individual cabinet members to raise their individual profiles were discernible under the Sipilä government, particularly within the Finns Party. The Finns Party left the government in June 2017, although several of its former cabinet members remained part of the Sipilä cabinet, forming a new party called Blue Reform.
Under the Orbán governments, Orbán’s strong and uncontested position as party leader and prime minister, as well as the strong capacities of the PMO, have ensured a high level of ministerial compliance. The radical reshuffling of the cabinet after the 2018 parliamentary elections has been aimed at raising ministerial compliance by bringing in committed ministers and by sending a strong signal that everyone is replaceable. Since then, however, the conflict between György Matolcsy, the governor of the Hungarian National Bank (MNB), and Minister of Finance Mihály Varga over economic policy and development has deepened, and László Palkovics, the new minister of innovation and technology, has emerged as a new strongman. In a way, government ministers and Fidesz leaders often do not know what the government line is, although they are ready to comply with it.
The current minority-led government represents a range of different agendas and priorities. The allocation of ministries between them has a significant influence on the overall coherence of government policy.

Individual ministries are to a significant degree independent fiefdoms that can be used by individual ministers to pursue their self-interest – including boosting their chances of reelection – rather than any comprehensive government objective. The system requires even senior ministers to spend considerable time and energy in local constituency work, because few are sufficiently distanced from the risk of losing their seat at the next election. One newspaper recently estimated (informally) that ministers spend only about 10% of their time on national issues.

The two ministries with overarching responsibility for coordinating this program are the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Finance.

Ministers are not involved in the appointment or promotion of civil servants; at the higher levels of the civil service, appointment is now in the hands of the independent Top Level Appointments Commission. However, a 2014 conflict over the roles of the minister for justice and the commissioner of the Garda Síochána (the police force) led to the resignation of both men, and eventually the departure of the secretary-general of the Department of Justice as well.

Ministers select their own advisers and consultants and these exercise considerable influence. For the most part, however, individual ministers do implement government policy. But over time there is a tendency for some to pursue increasingly idiosyncratic goals. The ultimate sanction can be exercised by the taoiseach, as occurred in the major cabinet reshuffle of July 2014, which was designed to increase the government’s cohesiveness.
Japan’s political framework formally provides the prime minister with powerful tools to control ministers. Prime ministers can appoint and fire ministers at will. Moreover, prime ministers can effectively veto specific sectoral policies. In practice, however, prime ministerial options have been more limited, as most have lacked full control over their own parties and over the powerful and entrenched bureaucracy.

Recent governments, including the current one, have sought to centralize policymaking within the core executive. Some measures have been institutional, such as giving new weight to the Cabinet Secretariat attached to the Cabinet Office and to the Council for Economic and Fiscal Policy, a cabinet committee in which the prime minister has a stronger voice. Other measures include a stronger role in top-level personnel decisions, aided by the creation of the Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs in 2014. Such institutional measures have proved quite successful, and the cabinet reshuffle of September 2019 indicated that the prime minister retains a strong grip on ministerial appointments.
Michael Macarthur Bosack, Abe shows his command over LDP in reshuffle, The Japan Times, 12 September 2019,
Whatever problems there may be with the Mexican system, it does deal effectively with the so-called agency problem, cabinet secretaries mostly have a strong incentive to avoid incurring presidential displeasure. The center of the Mexican government defines whole-of-government strategic priorities and has a unit in charge of tracking progress on the implementation of policy priorities.
Since the cabinet consists of a group of people who were more or less hand-picked by PiS party leader Jarosław Kaczyński, the need for using specific organizational devices for exerting pressure on ministers to stay in line with the government’s program has been limited. Despite some internal debates and power struggles (e.g., between Prime Minister Morawicki and Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro), ministers have largely been committed to implementing the government’s program, one bullet point after another. This situation has not changed since the government reshuffle in January 2018, as some of the new ministers have been even more loyal to Kaczyński than their predecessors.
Government in Switzerland is not (primarily) party-driven. Ministers are expected to work together as a collegium, and to abstain from any politics or policies that benefit their party or themselves as individual politicians. In general, this worked quite well so long as all members of government felt bound by the rules of collegiality. In recent years, due to growing political polarization and an attack on consociational politics by the right-wing populist party, there have been some deviations from this course. However, even in periods of polarized politics, the Swiss government and its policy implementation is much less driven by the interests of individual politicians or parties than is typically the case for parliamentary governments. In the current review period, ministerial compliance and cooperation were much more pronounced than between 2003 and 2007.

In the Swiss federal system, implementation is first the task of the cantons and even the municipalities. Implementation therefore must be seen as a multilevel process. According to Sager and Thomann, implementation varies among the cantons and is determined by political party government composition, policy pressures and bureaucratic preferences at the cantonal level.
Sager, Fritz, and Eva Thomann (2016). “A Multiple Streams Approach to Member State Implementation Research: Politics, Problem Construction and Policy Paths in Swiss Asylum Policy,” Journal of Public Policy 37 (3): 287–314.
The prime minister does not have significant legal powers over the other ministers. The constitution defines the Council of Ministers as a collective body presided over by the prime minister. The position of the prime minister thus strongly depends on the officeholder’s informal political authority and ability to appoint and dismiss deputy ministers.

When the prime minister is a party leader with a relatively strong personality, as has been the case under the Borissov governments, the degree informal influence is significant but dependent on the political context. In the summer of 2018, the prime minister successfully pressured three ministers to resign in the wake of a bus crash, but later in the year was not able to demand the resignation of ministers from his coalition partner, because this would likely have toppled the ruling majority. In 2019, a water crisis near the metropolitan Sofia area caused a political headache. Public pressure mounted on Borissov to address the crisis by firing the environmental minister, who is a member of the nationalist coalition partner. Borissov resisted asking for the minister’s resignation, but it was unclear whether this was because he believed it was unnecessary, or for fear that the coalition partner might withdraw from the government.
In the past, Czech governments have tried to ensure ministerial compliance mainly through the use of well-defined government programs and coalition agreements. Differences between individual ministers and the government took the form of disagreements between parties, played out by threats of resignation, and were resolved through coalition negotiations. The Social Democrats’ poor showing in the 2017 parliamentary elections has made them less assertive in the coalition. To secure ministerial compliance, Prime Minister Babiš has capitalized on his uncontested role as ANO leader and has made heavy use of naming and shaming in the media, especially in publications and outlets that he controls. Several ministers in his first government were seen as potential rivals, and did not make it into the second cabinet. The compliance of the Social Democrats has been secured mostly by using the threat of early elections.
In principle, line ministers are responsible for policies that fall under their jurisdiction. Therefore, individual ministers have some leeway to pursue their own or their party’s interests. This leeway is substantial in international comparison. Ministers sometimes pursue interests that therefore clash with the chancellor’s preferences or with coalition agreements. However, the coalition agreement bears considerable political weight and has often proved effective in guiding ministry activities. In terms of budgetary matters, Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz is particularly powerful and able – when he has the chancellor’s support – to reject financial requests by other ministries.

The new coalition agreement provides for some rules regarding when the coalition committee is to meet and who is to attend the meetings. As in previous coalitions, the committee consists of the chancellor and the vice chancellor, the leaders of parliamentary groups and party leaders (insofar as they are not the persons mentioned above). The coalition committee is informally the most important institution in resolving political disagreements within the government. Confronted with a harsh electoral decline in the 2019 state elections, the governing parties have increasingly sought to pursue their own interests through the ministries under their control, strongly undermining interministerial coordination. In some cases, ministries do not respect the coalition agreement, and have sought to push through policies that are beyond the coalition agreement. The most prominent example was the basic pension legislation proposed by Minister of Finance Scholz. His policy was explicitly not covered by the coalition agreement, but was of high political importance for the SPD. In November 2019, the coalition committee reached an agreement on that issue.

As part of the climate package, ministries are to be made responsible for climate reduction targets in the sectors under their responsibility. This is an important example in which the ministries are tasked with fulfilling the government’s overall objectives.
The OECD and global best-practice methods have influenced Israel’s organization of government in recent years. Values of transparency, planning, comparability, and supervision are defined by a designated unit in the PMO, arguably improving the implementation of the overall government program by increasing ministerial accountability vis-a-vis the government and the public. These new actions accompany more traditional ways to improve compliance, such as weekly cabinet sessions and interministerial roundtable events.

Ministers’ accountability to the Knesset is anchored in Israeli law (Basic Law: the Government 1968). This means that ministries must support and follow government decisions. In addition, coalition agreements, created by the party system in Israel, can be considered a mechanism for the government to force its agenda on ministers. If a minister resists or fails to implement a part of the government program, the minister might be forced by their respective party leader to follow it.

For example, as part of the Surrogacy Law of 2018, only single women were permitted the right to surrogacy, single men and gay couples were excluded. The law was highly controversial and provoked massive protests. Some Knesset members, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, acknowledged that they supported surrogacy for mothers and fathers, but voted against their stated position for the sake of “collation discipline” and due to pressure from ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties.
Blander, Dana, “Hok Ha-Hesderim: Necessary evil or necessarily evil?,” IDI website 14.1.2007 (Hebrew)

Salonim, Ori, “Measuring performance in the public service,” The eleventh annual Hertzliya conference official publication (Hebrew)

“Book of working plans 2014,” PMO website (March 2014) (Hebrew)

Guidelines of the Attorney General In matters relating to the work Government, Ministry of Justice, 2015

“Gay Couples Denied Right to Surrogacy in New Law,” JPOST, 18.7.2018,
The government’s organization provides ministers with various incentives to implement the government’s agenda. The primary organizational instruments include coalition agreements, government programs, multiannual government priorities, identified priority actions and monitoring processes, cabinet meetings and deliberations, and the assignment of ministerial responsibility for policy areas. Since prime-ministerial powers within the executive are limited by constitutional provisions and the fragmentation of coalition governments, officeholders need to seek support from other cabinet ministers (including ministers of finance, who tend to share the prime minister’s party affiliation), from parliamentary groups, and from the president (who has a veto power over draft laws) as they seek to implement the major objectives of the government program. In addition, as they implement governmental policy, line ministries tend to focus on the sectoral-policy aims falling under their responsibility at the expense of related horizontal-policy aims. However, the current government, where most ministers are nonpartisan and whose selection was based on their professional record as well as support from the president, increasingly faced tensions due to disagreements among the prime minister, sectoral ministers, and members of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union parliamentary faction. This led to three ministers being sacked by the prime minister. An internal lack of agreement on draft policy proposals was reported to be one of the main reasons for delays in the implementation of some government-program measures in 2017 and 2018.
The Luxembourg electoral system combines proportional representation using candidate lists with a type of majoritarian system that allows a voter to pick individual candidates by giving them preferential votes on more than one list.

Consequently, the voters, and not the party, decide on the composition of parliament and even of the government, since the candidates with the best results usually become ministers. This system encourages politicians to pursue personal initiatives, but as they generally address small lobbies, such projects do not typically conflict with the government’s agenda.

However, in the national elections of 2018, only 12 women were elected to parliament (compared to 48 men). (Due to subsequent changes, three more women joined parliament from the Green Party and the Socialists by the autumn of 2019.) Consequently, following the election, women held only 20% of parliamentary seats, compared to 28% in the previous parliament. Although all political parties nominated a minimum number of women for their electoral lists, with women making up 48% of all candidates, women failed to be elected to parliament in equal numbers. According to several women’s associations, the low proportion of female members of parliament is mainly due to the fact that many political discussions on television and radio in the run-up to the election took place without the participation of any female parliamentary candidates.

The prime minister has no authority to establish policy guidelines. For information and advice, all departmental bills are presented by the minister responsible for the subject area in the weekly government council (Conseil de Gouvernement).
“Wahlsystem.” Le portail officiel du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg. Accessed 19 Oct. 2019.

Fehlen, Fernand: “Für eine Wahlrechtsreform.”, November 2013, pp. 9 – 14. Accessed 19 Oct. 2019.
The organization of relations in the parliamentary and cabinet systems ensure that ministers have incentives to implement the government’s program. While ministers in the PS government, which held office until late October 2019, were generally aligned with the government program, the fact that the government had to depend on three other parties with very different orientations to pass legislation did create difficulties with regard to ministerial compliance.
Dutch ministers’ hands are tied by party discipline; government/coalition agreements (which they have to sign in person during an inaugural meeting of the new Council of Ministers); ministerial responsibility to the States General; and the dense consultation and negotiation processes taking place within their own departments, other departments in the interdepartmental administrative “front gates” and ministerial committees. Ministers have strong incentives to represent their ministerial interests, which do not necessarily directly reflect government coalition policy. The record-long formation period for the Rutte III government, which consists of four coalition partners (VVD, CDA, CU, and D66), resulted in a detailed government agreement underwritten by all four parties and their ministers. However, structural cleavages (along left-right, immigration and ethical issues) between the coalition parties have led to considerable inter-cabinet tensions, and thus opportunities for individual ministers to highlight their party-political affiliation and downplay the government agreement.
R.B. Andeweg & G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and Politics of The Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: 140-163
Turkey’s single-party government, which features strong party leadership and high demand for ministerial positions among party members, provides strong incentives to promote the government program. It is therefore difficult for even ministers with expertise in the areas they are responsible for to speak independently. The party leader’s charisma and standing, combined with the tendency within parties to leave personnel decisions to the party leader, prevent ministers from pursuing their own interests during their time in office.

Maintaining his grip on the government while stressing his intent to be an active leader, President Erdoğan interferes in almost every policy field and ministerial portfolio. Following the constitutional referendum of April 2017, Erdoğan was immediately re-elected chair of the AKP, which legalized a previously de facto status and undermines the principle of impartiality with respect to the Turkish head of state. In addition, Erdoğan immediately exercised constitutional powers that were not supposed to take effect until after the 2019 presidential elections.

Erdoğan has also actively intervened in the nomination of deputies, municipal mayors, the appointment of senior civil servants and the organization of electoral campaigns. In other words, the office of the president, now entrusted with increasing powers, has replaced the offices otherwise established by the constitution. The current constellation thus raises the question whether the effectiveness of the executive in general and the government in particular will be diminished by the existence of several centers of power, and suggests that the democratic separation of powers as a whole is eroding.
European Commission, Turkey 2019 Report, Brussels, 29.5.2019, report.pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

Cumhurbaşkanlığı Teşkilatı Hakkında Cumhurbaşkanlığı Kararnamesi 1, (accessed 1 November 2018)

“Cumhurbaşkanı Erdoğan, İkinci 100 Günlük İcraat Programı’nı açıkladı,” 13 December 2018, luk-icraat-programi-ni-acikladi (accessed 1 November 2019)
The prime minister has traditionally had more or less absolute power to appoint (and fire) ministers. Prime ministers use this power of patronage to earn the loyalty of backbench members of parliament and to ensure that ministers stick to the government agenda. The prime minister is also able to reshape the machinery of government, such as the remit and composition of ministries and cabinet committees.

Despite occasional leaks, the collective responsibility of cabinet is a well-entrenched doctrine, with standards of behavior are set out in the Ministerial Code. The prime minister’s power is partly dependent on the incumbent’s political strength and calculations by their party and potential rivals as to their future electoral success (which is directly linked to their own job security). Party whips also play a key role in passing legislation and thus in supporting the government, and – although Conservative members of parliament elected since 2010 are sometimes considered to be more prone to rebellion – any members of parliament with strong political ambitions have to be wary of being branded as mavericks. However, this label has become significantly less stigmatizing over the past years.

Following the 2016 referendum, several ministers publicly dissented from the government line on Brexit, with some ministers even resigning from the cabinet, while others used leaks and briefings to undermine the prime minister. As with other questions on executive capacity, the particular circumstances of Brexit being implemented by a minority government were unusually difficult. The ensuing disputes within the cabinet blocked Theresa May’s key policies and finally collapsed her government. Her successor, Boris Johnson, who was a central figure in sabotaging Theresa May’s premiership, has since managed to reinstate the discipline he himself helped undermine.
Ministers are primarily concerned with the agendas of their parties, rather than with that of the government as such. Ministers are selected by the head of each party – typically the chancellor and vice-chancellor. Their first loyalty is thus to party (and their party leader) rather than to the government as such. For this reason, ministers have incentives to implement the government’s program only as long as this is identified with the strategic interest of his or her party. Nonetheless, there are a number of informal mechanisms that help commit individual ministers to the government program. For that reason, parties within any coalition cabinet have to agree – informally or formally – not to oppose each other openly, for example, in parliament. Coalitions are based usually on a written agreement, including a political agenda and rules guaranteeing loyalty among the partners – loyalty to the common agenda and loyalty defined as not siding with the opposition against each other.
The “contract” (i.e., the coalition agreement) between the two coalition parties of the first Conte government was the main instrument designed to ensure that ministers fulfilled the government program. However, problems emerged for a number of reasons. First, in many policy fields, the contract specifies only general principles rather than containing clearly defined solutions. Second, in other fields in which the government might be required to act because of emerging problems, the contract says very little. Third, the two coalition parties responded to different electoral constituencies, which produced open conflicts that blocked decision-making.

Finally, there is the problem of the amount of resources devoted to different policies given budgetary limitations. The ability of the prime minister to solve these problems and effectively steer ministers is severely limited by the prime minister’s lack of political weight. The more frequent use of “summits,” which bring together the prime minister and the two deputy prime ministers, was the rather unwieldy solution adopted. These summits often led to the postponement of a decision rather than to a solution.
The cabinet is the most important organizational device at the disposal of the government providing incentives to ensure ministers implement the government’s program. Second to this are the weekly meetings of permanent secretaries. Meanwhile, the powers of the Prime Minister’s Office have increasingly been used to drive policy implementation. The ministerial secretariat is generally responsible for overseeing the implementation of a program. However, this function has become more centralized; the government can now show how much of its program has been implemented. A yearly report provides details on each budget measure, indicating when it was implemented and by which ministry. A list of unimplemented measures is also included. In addition, the Management Efficiency Unit in the PMO provides ministries with advice and capacity-building tools. Informal coalitions, for instance between civil society groups, businesses and individual ministries, can drive implementation in certain policy areas, such as the extension of LGBT rights, tourism or the construction sector. The drive to introduce simplification measures across ministries facilitates decentralization (e.g., in recruitment accords), granting ministries greater independence as well as additional incentive to implement policies successfully. Parliamentary committees have also become useful in making policy implementation more efficient, for instance in the area of social affairs; however, bipartisan cooperation is all but absent in every sphere.
PM wants powers to appoint ministers who are not MPs Times of Malta 15/02/16
Implementation of government measure 2018
As head of a five-parties coalition government, Prime Minister Šarec primarily relied on coalition meetings of narrow (including only the presidents of coalition parties) or broader composition (including ministers and members of parliament as well) in order to ensure the implementation of the government’s program. However, as Prime Minister Šarec seems less willing to openly communicate with the media than his predecessor, the public has less insight into the outcomes of these meetings. In the Šarec government’s first year in office, five ministers either resigned or were removed from office (i.e., both ministers for EU cohesion policy, the minister of health, minister of environment and spatial planning, and minister of culture).
Haček, M., S. Kukovič, M. Brezovšek (2017): Slovenian Politics and the State. Lanham, New York, London, Boulder: Lexington Books.
The organization of government provides weak mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
As the strong conflicts within the governing coalition (between HDZ and Most-NL) and the weak policy record of the Plenković government show, the organization of government of the first Plenković government provided only weak incentives for ministers to implement the government’s program. The situation has not changed significantly under the second Plenković government. Interministerial coordination and regular communication between relevant ministries are very rare and of poor quality. As a result, numerous issues that the ministries should deal with eventually end up on the prime minister’s desk. This substantially reduces the ministries’ capacity for autonomous – full or partial – implementation of the government policies they are entrusted with. All this also slows down the whole policy-implementation process because the prime minister has to deal with too many less important issues instead of concentrating on the strategic development of government policies.
In the period under review, the completion of the Third Economic Adjustment Program (terminated in August 2018) left the government with more room to formulate and implement its own policies without externally imposed conditionalities. Government ministers pursued Syriza’s pre-electoral left-wing program, and in some instances tried out various untested ideas or plans of their own. For example, the minister of education suddenly announced in April 2019 that the country’s polytechnics would be elevated to the status of universities, and that another 38 new university departments would be founded across the country, without any rational planning. The decision affected the status of thousands of polytechnic-institution instructors who overnight became professors, as well as tens of thousands of polytechnic graduates who overnight found themselves holding university degrees.

After the government turnover of July 2019, the new government was forced to retain the elevated status of polytechnics, as thousands of recent high-school graduates had already been admitted to these institutions through that year’s university-entrance examinations. However, in November 2019, the new government canceled the procedures establishing new university departments (including a new law school at the University of Patras).
Ministers in Romania have traditionally held significant leeway in terms of deciding policy details within their departments, and the short-lived prime ministers in recent years – all dependent on the backing of PSD chair Dragnea – have been too weak to bring ministers in line.
Since the 2016 elections, ministerial compliance has been complicated by the fact that the government rests on an “unnatural” coalition that includes parties as diverse as the Slovak National Party (SNS) and the mostly Hungarian minority based party Most-Híd (Bridge). The vagueness of the government manifesto and the weakness of Prime Minister Pellegrini have allowed ministers to pursue sectoral interests and to follow party lines. Several ministers of the junior coalition partners are political newcomers, and have proven difficult to integrate and more or less are dependent on coalition party leaders. Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Family Ján Richter, for instance, followed Smer-SD leader Robert Fico’s populist call to abolish the automatic increase in the retirement age, even though it contradicted the government manifesto.
Under the Cypriot presidential system, the appointment and dismissal of a minister are the president’s prerogative. Implementation of line ministry policies rests entirely with each minister. In September 2019, the government launched the website Exandas to monitor the progress of works and policies; a task also carried out by the Secretariat of the Council of Ministers. However, no dedicated personnel or processes exist for the overall assessment of ministries’ policies and compliance with state policies.
Monitoring is also difficult within line ministries, due to the very broad scope of each ministry’s competences and departmentalization. This makes planning and coordination difficult to achieve. Strategic planning that benefits implementation and provides evaluation benchmarks is still not effectively implemented.
The organization of government does not provide any mechanisms for ministers to implement the government’s program.
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