American Political Science Review

Research Article

Constitutional Power and Competing Risks: Monarchs, Presidents, Prime Ministers, and the Termination of East and West European Cabinets


a1 University of Oxford


Some European constitutions give cabinets great discretion to manage their own demise, whereas others limit their choices and insert the head of state into decisions about government termination. In this article, we map the tremendous variation in the constitutional rules that govern cabinet termination and test existing expectations about its effects on a government's survival and mode of termination. In doing so, we use the most extensive government survival data set available to date, the first to include East and West European governments. Our results demonstrate that constitutional constraints on governments and presidential influence on cabinet termination are much more common than has previously been understood and have powerful effects on the hazard profiles of governments. These results alter and improve the discipline's understanding of government termination and durability, and have implications for comparative work in a range of areas, including the survival and performance of democracies, electoral accountability, opportunistic election calling, and political business cycles.


c1 Petra Schleiter is University Lecturer, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford; Tutorial Fellow. St. Hilda's College, Oxford, UK OX1 3UQ Oxford, UK OX4 1DY (

c2 Edward Morgan-Jones is Research Fellow and Tutor in Politics, Keble College, and Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, Manor Road, Oxford, UK OX1 3UQ (


We thank Dave Armstrong, Sara Binzer Hobolt, Kaare Strøm, Margit Tavits, the participants of a panel at APSA 2008, the Nuffield Political Science Seminar (University of Oxford), and the Monday MZES-Colloquium (University of Mannheim) for their suggestions and advice on earlier versions of this article, and gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments of the APSR co-editors and anonymous referees. Part of the data collection for this article was funded by Petra Schleiter's grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (grant reference no. RES-000-22-0365).