Designing Cabinets: Presidential Politics and Ministerial Instability

Cecilia Martínez-Gallardo


This article proposes a set of arguments about the strategic use of cabinet appointments by executives in presidential systems. Although recent work has greatly improved our understanding of government formation in presidential countries, most changes to presidential cabinets happen throughout the lifetime of a government and remain poorly understood. I argue that presidents use cabinet changes in response to unexpected shocks and to adjust their governments to changing political and policy circumstances. Weak presidents are more likely to use this strategic resource, which means that ministerial turnover should be higher when a president’s formal authority is weak and he or she has low political support and popularity. To test these claims, I have assembled an original dataset that records individual cabinet changes in 12 Latin American countries between 1982 and 2012. The data provides strong support for the theory.

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