Divisor Methods for Sequential Portfolio Allocation in Multi-Party Executive Bodies: Evidence from Northern Ireland and Denmark


  • A much earlier version of this article was presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Public Choice Society, Paris. Participation in this research by the first author was partly funded by a United States Institute of Peace grant (to John McGarry and Brendan O'Leary) and a Rockefeller residential fellowship to O'Leary. The participation in this research by the second author was partially funded by grant SBR 97-30578 (to Bernard Grofman and Anthony Marley), Program in Methodology, Measurement and Statistics, National Science Foundation. We are indebted to Clover Behrend-Gethard, Shelley Deane, and Simone Lewis for research assistance, and to Paul Mitchell, John McGarry, and Rikke Berg, as well as to three anonymous reviewers, for comments.

Brendan O'Leary is Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania, Stiteler Hall, 208 South 37th Street, Philadelphia PA 19104; 215-573-0645 (boleary@sas.upenn.edu). Bernard Grofman is Professor of Political Science, University of California, Irvine, 3151 Social Science Plaza, Irvine, CA 92697-5100; 949-824-6394 (bgrofman@uci.edu). Jørgen Elklit is Professor of Political Science, University of Aarhus, Bartholins Alle, DK, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark; 45-89-42-12-59 (elklit@ps.au.dk).


Some proportional representation (PR) rules can also be used to specify the sequence in which each party in a parliament or each member in a multiparty governing coalition is given its choice about (unique) desired resources, e.g., “indivisible goods” such as cabinet ministries or executive positions, thus providing an algorithmic method for determining “fair” allocations. Divisor rule sequencing using the d'Hondt method was recently used to determine the ten cabinet positions in the Northern Ireland Executive Committee created under the 1998 Belfast (“Good Friday”) Agreement; and such sequential allocation procedures have been used in some Danish municipal governments, and for determination of committee chairs in the European parliament. Here we examine in some detail the procedures used in Northern Ireland and Denmark, with a focus on special features such as the option in Denmark to form post-election alliances.