Party politics at the water's edge: Contestation of military operations in Europe

Wolfgang Wagner, Anna Herranz-Surrallés, Juliet Kaarbo, Falk Ostermann

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This paper contributes to current debates on the politicization of international politics by examining party-political contestation of peace and security missions. It is guided by two inter-related questions, (a) to what extent deployment decisions are contested amongst political parties and (b) what drives such contestation. We examine data from a new data set on parliamentary votes on deployment decisions in France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom and from the Chapel Hill Expert Survey. Against conventional wisdom and in an effort to address the often-overlooked role of political parties, we find that military deployments have been systematically contested amongst political parties across Europe. Further, we find that contestation is driven by the left/right axis, as opposed to newer cleavages captured here by the so-called gal/tan axis. We also find evidence that patterns of contestation depend on parties' positions in government or opposition, a factor we relate to bureaucratic and international pressures on the parties in office, and to political opportunities for opposition parties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-563
Number of pages28
JournalEuropean Political Science Review
Issue number4
Early online date6 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • contestation
  • defence policy
  • military missions
  • party politics
  • politicization


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