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Why have Technocrats been Appointed to Govern European Democracies?

Giulia Pastorella

In the context of the Eurocrisis, technocratic governments have come to the fore of public and academic debates alike. The present paper sets out to understand the underlying conditions leading to the appointment of such unusual cabinets. Adopting a rational choice institutionalist framework,the paper develops a series of hypotheses as to what element or situation, during the government formation phase, increase the chances of a technocratic government appointment. Such variables are categorized as either institutional conditions that remain stable in political systems, or as contingent conditions that change over time. The analysis, limited to 27 European democracies, identifies, beyond countries’ peculiarities, the common roots for these cabinets. By applying a binary logistic analysis, it demonstrates that in countries that are not monarchies, when there is an economic crisis and a political scandal in a situation of fragmentation of the party system, a technocratic government is more likely to be appointed. It concludes that technocratic governments are therefore to be interpreted as warning signs for democracies, and as such, treated as the symptoms, rather than the cause, of the diminishing qualities of European democracies.

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