Thursday 30 June 2011

On the 19th constitutional government

A few quick facts on the new cabinet in comparison with past ones:

1. It's one of the smallest cabinets ever: 12 ministers, including the PM, and 35 "junior ministers" - secretários de estado (the previous cabinet had 17 ministers and 38 junior ministers). Not the smallest ever, though, if you add ministers and junior ministers. That record (assuming one thinks this is a good thing, although I'm somewhat more agnostic there) belongs to the current President, Cavaco Silva, who in 1985 led a cabinet formed just by 14 ministers and 32 junior ministers. It surprises me a bit that, historically speaking, there is no relation between cabinet size and whether a government is supported by coalition or not. Average of 56 for coalition governments, average of 57 for single-party governments. In any case, this is a small cabinet by any standards.

2. There are eight women (two of them senior ministers), less than one out of five cabinet members. But the previous cabinet had nine women, which was proportionally even less (albeit five of them were senior ministers). Overall, the average of women cabinet members  from 1976 until now is about 6% (but rising), so this cabinet is clearly in the upper half in terms of female cabinet participation in Portugal. It is also apparently not far from the European average, although much below than, well, you know where (Scandinavia in case you really didn't know).

3. Judging from newspaper reports, of the 47 cabinet members, 18 are affiliated to the PSD, 11 to the CDS-PP and there are 18 "independents". There's been a lot of talk about the large number of independents (nearly two out of five in this cabinet), but two notes are necessary. First, this is a very broad definition of "independence", which encompasses, for example, MP's included in party lists although unaffiliated to the party. Second, this is far from a new trend. The average of "independents" per cabinet since 1976 is one out of four, and they represented 35% of the 2005-2009 Sócrates cabinet. So the 19th government has a high share of independents - the highest ever, I think, if we discount our "presidential initiative cabinets in the 1970s - but not inordinately so for Portuguese standards. It is a pattern also shared with Spain, and that sets us apart from most European democracies, as far as I can tell from the literature.

4. I would need much more time to look at educational backgrounds, since vitas of all the cabinet members are not available in the government's website. But among the senior ministers, half of them are lawyers (typical in cabinets of the Right) and five are Business or Economics majors (with two of them Economics PhDs and another a Mathematics PhD). I don't recall a cabinet where not a single senior minister was an Engineering major (somebody made a joke the other day that this was a revenge against you know who). And hey: there's one Political Science major.

For scholarship on the composition of cabinets in Portugal, this is probably a good place to start.

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