Dividing the indivisible: Procedures for allocating cabinet ministries to political parties in a parliamentary system

Steven J. Brams, Todd R. Kaplan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Political parties in Northern Ireland recently used a divisor method of apportionment to choose, in sequence, ten cabinet ministries. If the parties have complete information about each other's preferences, we show that it may not be rational for them to act sincerely by choosing their most-preferred ministry that is available. One consequence of acting sophisticatedly is that the resulting allocation may not be Pareto-optimal, making all the parties worse off. Another is non-monotonicity - choosing earlier may hurt rather than help a party. We introduce a mechanism, combining sequential choices with a structured form of trading, that results in sincere choices for two parties that avoids these problems. Although there are difficulties in extending this mechanism to more than two parties, other approaches are explored, such as permitting parties to make consecutive choices not prescribed by an apportionment method. But certain problems, such as eliminating envy, remain.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)143-173
    Number of pages31
    JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Apr 1 2004



    • Apportionment methods
    • Cabinets
    • Fairness
    • Mechanism design
    • Sequential allocation

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science

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