Kinder, Gentler – and Crisis-Proof? Consensus Democracy, Inclusive Institutions and COVID-19 Pandemic Performance

Freiburghaus, Rahel; Vatter, Adrian; Stadelmann-Steffen, Isabelle (2023). Kinder, Gentler – and Crisis-Proof? Consensus Democracy, Inclusive Institutions and COVID-19 Pandemic Performance. West European politics, 46(6), pp. 1106-1132. Taylor & Francis 10.1080/01402382.2022.2156164

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Which patterns of democracy perform best? Although a decades-long research tradition has fairly robustly suggested that consensual democracies outperform their Westminster-style majoritarian counterparts, the scope of previous studies has been limited to ‘normal times’. In this article, the endogenous context of the COVID-19 pandemic is leveraged to study whether the alleged superiority of consensualism also holds during crises. It is hypothesised that, in addition to consensus democracy, inclusive institutions – i.e. cabinet size and interest-group corporatism – enhance crisis-related performance. Drawing on new and original data, cross-sectional and hierarchical time-series regression analyses show that horizontal power-sharing and the number of ministers substantively reduced excess mortality, while the structure of the interest-group system had no effect. Although established consensus democracies can draw on their built-in institutional assets even during crises, our findings indicate that majoritarian systems may, as a compensatory performance-enhancing tool, flexibly gear up for crisis-induced necessities by adding more ministers to the cabinet.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Political Science

UniBE Contributor:

Freiburghaus, Rahel, Vatter, Adrian, Stadelmann, Isabelle


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science




Taylor & Francis




Rahel Freiburghaus

Date Deposited:

15 May 2023 07:23

Last Modified:

04 Jun 2023 02:26

Publisher DOI:





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