Taking Opposition Seriously: Explaining Market-Oriented Healthcare Reforms in Slovakia and Hungary
Existing approaches to policy change consider governments as key players in the process of policy transformation. Governments, however, are not always successful in introducing radical change to welfare state programs. Why are some governments able to pass radical change of welfare state programs and other not? This article challenges the view that the characteristics of the governments, such as partisanship, size or number of government parties, are main determinants of the policymaking outcomes. In contrast to the government-centered approaches to policy change, it focuses on the role of political opposition and argues that composition and strategies of the opposition are key for the understanding of policy outcomes. By comparing government’s attempts for large-scale market reform of the healthcare sector in two Central Eastern European countries, Slovakia and Hungary, the article shows that the different opposition’s alignments influenced both the choice of strategies opposition parties used to challenge the government reform plans and the opposition’s capacity to use the available institutional vetoes to block reforms. Showing that the reason for the different policymaking outcomes lies in the differences between the government’s political opposition, the article emphasizes that the opposition should be taken more seriously in studies of policy change.