Institutionalised consensus in Europe's parliament
Embedded consensus has characterised the behaviour of the European Parliament since its foundation in the 1950s. This research tests the path dependence of consensus during the period of 1994 to 2002, in the light of the changing institutional powers of the Parliament. It challenges existing theory and empirical evidence drawn mainly from roll call votes that has concluded that the European Parliament has become more competitive internally in response to increased institutional powers. There are three causal factors that reinforce consensus: the need to reconcile national and ideological divisions within a multinational political system; the pull of external institutional factors such as institutional change or the separation of powers; and internal incentives for collusion between political actors influenced by the need to accommodate the interests of the national elites present at the level of the European Union. Switzerland, a multiple cleavage system of decentralised federalism that includes consociational characteristics and a separation of powers, provides a comparative reference point for institutionalised consensus. The hypotheses of institutionalised consensus are tested empirically in four ways: 1) by roll call votes between 1994 and 2001, focusing on procedure, policy area, and the cut-off point of the 1999 elections; 2) competition and consensus in the distribution of policy-related office in the Parliament; 3) by Parliament’s use of its powers of appointment and censure over other institutions; and 4) by the internal consensus on the preparation of Parliament’s bids for greater powers when the European Union Treaties are reformed. In adapting the theory of path dependence to a multinational legislature, the methodology presented in this thesis can be applied in furthering the understanding of other comparable institutions.