Ministerial portfolios are the most obvious payoffs for parties entering a governing coalition in parliamentary democracies. This renders the bargaining over portfolios an important phase of the government formation process. The question of ‘who gets what, and why?’ in terms of ministerial remits has not yet received much attention by coalition or party scholars. This article focuses on this qualitative aspect of portfolio allocation and uses a new comparative dataset to evaluate a number of hypotheses that can be drawn from the literature. The main hypothesis is that parties which, in their election manifestos, emphasise themes corresponding to the policy remit of specific cabinet portfolios are more likely to obtain control over these portfolios. The results show that policy saliency is indeed an important predictor of portfolio allocation in postwar Western European parliamentary democracies.