Coordination Committees as Parliamentary Agenda Setters (CoCoPAS)
Agenda setting, i.e. the decision which topics are debated and decided in political discourse, is a crucial element of representative democracy. Agenda setting shapes political processes and behavior, affects the distribution of power between various actors, and influences political competition and outputs. As parliaments are a central arena of political competition, setting the parliamentary agenda is particularly relevant. In many parliaments, the agenda is set by specific coordination committees such as the Council of Elders in the German Bundestag or the Rules Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Despite their importance, we have only limited comparative information on the functioning and influence of these committees that typically comprise, the president of the parliament, representatives of all parliamentary party groups, and sometimes also chairs of standing committees.
The CoCoPAS project studies parliamentary coordination committees and their role in about 30 European parliaments. The project aims to provide an overview of the agenda setting regimes of these countries with a specific focus on the role of coordination committees. Descriptively, the project studies the composition and resources of coordination committees as well as their internal decision-making rules and processes based on primary data obtained via document analysis and a standardized (online) survey. Analytically, it investigates whether committee members act solely based on partisan goals or develop a cross-partisan group identity related to parliament as a whole that affects their decisions. To this end, we investigate decision-making within selected coordination committees in comparative qualitative case studies. Based on minutes and expert interviews, we study whether and how different coordination committees succeed in making consensual decisions despite competing interests of actors.
In terms of the overall research unit, we study whether, under what conditions and through what mechanisms coordination committees develop autonomy as decision-makers within parliament. Coordination Committees constitute a hard case for finding autonomy because their members represent corporate actors (party groups) with often antagonistic preferences leaving, at first glance, little room for group-based behavior that deviates from an aggregation of members’ preferences. Finding autonomy under such conditions would provide strong evidence for the pervasiveness of the phenomenon whereas its absence helps define boundary conditions for the emergence of autonomous horizontal collective actors.
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Sieberer
Ulrich Sieberer studied Political Science, History, and Public Law and did his PhD in Comparative Politics. He is a professor of empirical political science at the University of Bamberg and director of the Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences (BAGSS). His research focuses on comparative politics in European democracies with a special emphasis on the link between institutions and political behavior. He currently works on institutional design in legislatures and executives, coalition politics, and opposition behavior using both quantitative and qualitative methods.
Dr. Elena Frech
Elena Frech is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Bamberg (Germany). Before, she was a member of the „Parliamentary Careers in Comparison“ project at the University of Geneva (Switzerland). Her research interests lie in the broad area of comparative and European legislative politics: particularly political institutions, political careers (especially candidate selection), European Union, and parliamentary behavior. Furthermore, she is interested in representation, gender, and survey methods. She published in international peer-reviewed journals (e.g. IO, LSQ, EUP).