What is it about?

How do disagreements within multiparty coalitions affect foreign policy, and how can junior parties get their own way? These questions are of growing importance as social media makes politics and society more polarised, and increases pressure on politicians to satisfy their own party members and supporters, rather than the interests of the country as a whole. Until now, research on foreign policy in multiparty coalitions focuses on the influence of junior parties over cabinet decisions. This article proposes a new concept of ‘rogue decisions’ to describe something different. Rogue decisions are autonomous decisions by junior parties impacting foreign affairs, taken without cabinet coordination, that undermine their senior partners’ foreign policies. Rogue decisions are not supposed to happen in orderly democratic government. They don't fit with the common assumption that in cabinet government, foreign policy decision get taken around the cabinet table. But this paper shows that rogue decisions can happen, and explains the conditions under which they do. It then proves the point with two examples, from two very different parliamentary democracies - Britain and Israel. These represent polar opposite parliamentary systems, with Israel among the most proportional, where rogue decisions may be most expected, and Britain the most majoritarian, where they would be least expected. Finding rogue decisions in contrasting parliamentary democracies challenges the assumption that cabinet is where foreign policy disagreements are managed, according to established decision-making rules. The article forces us to think again about the ways junior parties can get their way in foreign policy and the common assumption that states act as coherent units.

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Why is it important?

We are used to thinking of states as having single, unified, coherent foreign policies. This paper shows that is not always the case. Sometimes a junior party can be running their own policy that contradicts that of their senior coalition partner.


This paper drew on my knowledge of the two political systems I know best - Britain and Israel. I was able to show that a phenomenon quite familiar in Israel - coalition partners acting at cross purposes to one another - can happen in any multi-party coalition, even Britain.

Dr Toby Benjamin Greene
Queen Mary University of London

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Foreign policy anarchy in multiparty coalitions: When junior parties take rogue decisions, European Journal of International Relations, February 2019, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/1354066119828196.
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