Hallbera West

MP Firefighting: When do MPs hold government accountable?

One central accountability concern is control of executive power. Even though the voters have an important say in this, they have no formal control options between elections. Here, parliaments have a say, especially in parliamentary systems where parliament delegates power to government, not the voter. Government answers to parliament. However, in parliament, MPs face expectations from different roles, the strongest being the role as “partisans”. This dissertation enhances our knowledge about MPs and parliamentary control by investigating under which conditions MPs engage in control activity. The dissertation focuses on Fire Alarm control activity from decentral parliamentary control institutions and argues that Fire Alarms call for MP Firefighting in parliament. The project applies a medium-N mixed method research design. The quantitative investigation of patterns of MP Firefighting shows that MP Firefighting to a high extent is “partisan” activity. MPs from opposition parties dominate the parliamentary control activity. MPs engage in Firefighting if the potential to damage the government’s reputation is present and if cases receive media coverage. The qualitative within-case investigation by process-tracing method supports the quantitative investigation, since the selected cases show that MPs to a high extent use cases to inflict cost on government and damage the government’s reputation. Finally, the project investigates whether MPs display a different type of behavior related to institutionalized Firefighting, where clear-cut procedures instruct the control activity compared to Firefighting based on MPs’ own initiative. Here, MPs to a higher degree display “parliamentarian” behavior where also government MPs participate.

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