Professor Petra Schleiter

B.Sc. (Econ) International Relations (London School of Economics)
M.Phil. Russian Studies (St. Antony's College, University of Oxford)
D.Phil. (Nuffield College, University of Oxford)


Petra Schleiter is Professor of Comparative Politics in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford, Tutorial Fellow of St Hilda’s College, and Constitution Unit Fellow at University College London.

After completing her undergraduate degree (B.Sc. in International Relations) at the London School of Economics, Professor Schleiter did her graduate work at the University of Oxford, including an M.Phil. in Russian Studies (St. Antony's College), and a D.Phil. in Politics (Nuffield College).

Professor Schleiter's focuses on the consequences of comparative political institutions. She has developed a strong research profile in this area with work that explores the effects of semi-presidentialism, presidentialism, party systems, fixed parliamentary terms and flexible election timing, caretaker conventions and recognition rules on a variety of political outcomes. Of particular interest to her are the implications of these institutions for governmental corruption, democratic survival, cabinet formation and termination, electoral accountability and policy diffusion. Her work has been published in leading journals in the discipline including the American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, Comparative Political Studies, the British Journal of Political Science, Party Politics, European Journal of Political Research, Parliamentary Affairs and elsewhere.

Research Interests

Professor Schleiter's work is motivated by research questions that are of scientific and practical importance. It focuses on the consequences of comparative political institutions and its contributions span five major areas, which she describes as follows:

(1) Executive presidents, cabinet composition, regime stability and electoral accountability

Many European and Latin American political systems feature executive presidents who have some influence on cabinet composition, policy and – in the case of Europe – election calling. Mys research makes contributions to the understanding of presidential influence on cabinet composition, regime stability and electoral accountability. Turning first to cabinet composition, presidents frequently appoint ministers who lack party affiliation. Such appointment strategies have puzzled researchers for some time and are often assumed to indicate a president’s intention to circumvent parliament, which is expected to undermine democratic stability. My work contributes to a better understanding of presidential cabinet formation strategies. It clarifies that the distinct electoral mandates of presidents and assemblies often cause a president’s political goals to diverge from those of their party. In such circumstances non-party ministers can be better agents for presidents than co-partisans. Turning to regime stability, I find that non-party appointments on their own do not signal authoritarian intentions and a president’s unwillingness to work with the legislature. These results contribute to a more nuanced understanding of why democracies with executive presidents are typically more stable than predicted. In examining the impact of presidents on electoral accountability, my work has focused on the powers of European presidents to influence assembly dissolution and exert leverage in the electoral arena. Presidents with significant dissolution powers, I find, enable their political allies in government to face the electorate under systematically more favourable conditions than their peers who lack presidential support, which can have a transformative impact on a government’s electoral success.

(2) Party system features, accountability, governmental corruption and policy diffusion

Party system features affect the attribution of responsibility for political choices and how easy it is to hold incumbents to account, which has consequences for outcomes ranging from governmental corruption to policy diffusion. My work makes contributions in understanding both outcomes. Governmental corruption persists in many democracies around the world, even though surveys indicate that voters disapprove of it. Party system features, I show in work with Alisa Voznaya, are an important key to this puzzle. Party systems that are poorly institutionalized, non-programmatic, dominated by a single party, or fragmented, reduce the ability of voters to select non-corrupt representatives and to punish those who permit malfeasance. This widens the scope for governmental corruption. Party system features also shape cross-national policy diffusion. It is well established that political parties learn from the policy positions of successful incumbents abroad. But among that group of incumbents some parties are more influential than others. In a paper with Thomas Bӧhmelt, Lawrence Ezrow and others, I show that the policies of sole or dominant incumbent parties are more visible to foreign party strategists and more readily adopted by parties abroad. This suggests that party systems, which concentrate power within government, give rise to incumbents with greater cross-national policy influence.

(3) Election timing powers, government terminations and the heterogeneity of early elections

A major constitutional distinction separates parliamentary democracies in which governments have discretion to time elections from those in which governments have no such powers. This distinction has far-reaching implications for parliamentary bargaining about a broad range of outcomes. My work makes a series of contributions in charting these powers and their effect on the management of government terminations by politicians. I develop an original index to measure assembly dissolution powers in parliamentary democracies (with Max Goplerud). My article in the American Political Science Review (with Edward Morgan-Jones) demonstrates the importance these powers in shaping government survival. In related work, I note that these powers generate heterogeneity among early elections because they can either be used by the government to seize favourable circumstances and consolidate its position, or directed against the government when its hold on power slips. By showing that these two types of elections are distinct political outcomes that require separate explanations, my work recasts the dependent variable in the literature on government terminations. Using this distinction, I explore how governments’ powers to time elections condition their responses to risks and opportunities generated by the economy and in other policy areas. I am currently completing a book on this topic.

(4) Opportunistic election timing, electoral accountability and voter reactions

Whether and how flexible election timing yields electoral benefits for governments is not well understood. Yet, this is a question with important normative implications for policy debates: Governmental election timing powers are contentious precisely because they are believed to give incumbents an unfair electoral advantage. My research provides the first examination of that advantage and breaks new ground in the scholarly and political debates: In a paper with Margit Tavits, I provide the first systematic cross-national comparative analysis of incumbency bonuses from opportunistic election timing and demonstrates that prime ministers are able to realize an average vote share advantage of up to 5 per cent when they have discretion to call elections. In a related paper we employ a survey experiment to test the causal mechanisms behind this phenomenon and shows that voters’ inclination to reward the good policy performance that triggers strategic election calls is not overwhelmed by their desire to punish incumbent opportunism. These findings are corroborated by case studies of election timing choices and outcomes.

(5) Government termination, formation and election calling in the UK

Linked to my work on topics 3 and 4 is an impact-focused research agenda, in which I address the effects of (i) the recent change in the discretion of UK governments to time elections (the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, 2011), (ii) the UK’s caretaker conventions, which govern the period between an election or the resignation of a cabinet and the formation of a new government, and (iii) the UK’s recognition rules, which guide the selection of a new prime minister in a hung parliament (much of this work with Valerie Belu). In each of these areas, my work analyses the UK’s constitutional rules in comparative European perspective and charts a new dimension in the UK policy and public debates. This work has generated an edited collection and a series of articles that have had considerable policy impact.

Research Awards
2016 OUP Fell Fund, £48,000, “Measuring Fiscal Manipulation in Europe and its Links to Strategic Election Timing.” (Ref. 153/103).
2016 British Academy, Small Research Grant (Ref. SG151818). £9073.50, “Fairness and Voter Reactions to Government Opportunism.”
2015 ESRC Impact Acceleration Award, £2,500, “The implications of fixed-term parliaments for caretaker periods and government formation” (Ref. IAA/HEIF-DIA-005).
2014-15 British Academy, Mid-Career Fellowship, £110,577, “Surviving busts and exploiting booms: the economy, constitutional variation and cabinet survival in Europe.” (Ref. SCHO02).
2013- 15 OUP Fell Fund, £62,308, “Conceptualizing, measuring and exploring economic effects on cabinet survival and termination in Europe.” (Ref. 121/476).
2010-11 British Academy, Small Research Grant (Ref. SG090658). £6,858, “Party Systems and Corruption in Democracies around the World.”
2003-4 ESRC Research Grant, £40,284.16, “Government Stability in Semi-Presidential Regimes.” (Ref. RES-000-22-0365, graded 'outstanding').

Codebook: /sites/

2000-2 Nuffield Foundation, £8,452, “Lawmaking and Governance in the Russian Federation” with Dr. P Chaisty, (Ref. SGS/00429/G).


1994-8 Doctoral Studentship: Volkswagen Foundation and Nuffield College (DPhil Politics, Nuffield College, University of Oxford).


Fellowships and Visiting Positions



Fellow, The Constitution Unit, School of Public Policy, Department of Political Science, University College London.

Visiting Fellowship, University of Gothenburg.

Visiting Fellowship, Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung (MZES), University of Mannheim.

06-07/2011 Visiting Professorship, Centre d'Etudes Européennes, Sciences Po, Paris.


Service as External Member of Professorial Appointment Panel & External PhD Examiner (2016)
2016  External Member, Professorial Appointment Panel, Department of Political and Social Sciences, European University Institute, Florence (Italy).
2016  External PhD Examiner: G. Pastorella, London School of Economics (UK). 
2016  External PhD Examiner: A. Ecker, University of Vienna (Austria).
2016  External PhD Examiner: D. Walther, University of Umeå (Sweden).

Invited Research Presentations (2015-16)

May 2016, Department of Political Science and Law, University of Geneva (Switzerland); April 2016, Conference on New Developments in Cabinet Coalition Research, Rome (Italy); November 2015, Conference on Presidents and (Semi) Presidentialism, ISS, Lisbon University (Portugal); November 2015, Workshop on Constitutional Democracy: Executive-Legislative Relations under Parliamentarism, University of Oslo (Norway); September 2015, Glasgow University (UK); July 2015, Centre for Law and Society at Lancaster University (UK); May 2015, Quality of Government Institute, University of Gothenburg (Sweden); January 2015, Conference on Conflict, Co-operation and the Cameron-Clegg Government, London (UK); January 2015, Study of Parliament Group Annual Conference, Oxford (UK)


Courses Taught

Undergraduate Teaching

  • Introduction to Politics
  • Comparative Government
  • Politics of Russia and the Former Soviet Union

Graduate Teaching

  • Comparative Government
  • Research Design


Edited Collection

(1) P. Schleiter (ed.), 2016. “Symposium: The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act.” Parliamentary Affairs, 69 (1): 1-52.

The symposium (published FirstView online 2015) and publication (11) were covered by the BBC Apr 1, 2015, The Times Jan 5, 2015, and was mentioned in the parliamentary debate about the repeal of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, 6 March 2015 by Andy Slaughter, MP:

Journal Articles (refereed)

(2) P. Schleiter, and M. Tavits. 2016. “The Electoral Benefits of Opportunistic Election Timing.” Journal of Politics, 78(3): 836-850.

*(3) P. Schleiter and A. Voznaya. 2016. “Party System Institutionalization, Accountability and Governmental Corruption.” British Journal of Political Science. DOI: 10.1017/S0007123415000770, Published online: 18 May 2016

(4) Goplerud, M., and P. Schleiter. 2016. “An Index of Assembly Dissolution Powers.” Comparative Political Studies, 49(4): 427-456.

(5) P. Schleiter, 2016. “Editorial: How the Fixed-term Parliaments Act Changes UK Politics.”
Parliamentary Affairs. 69(1): 1-2.

(6) P. Schleiter and V. Belu. 2016. “The Decline of Majoritarianism in the UK and the Fixed-term Parliaments Act” Parliamentary Affairs. 69(1): 36-52.

(7) O. Gay, P. Schleiter and V. Belu. 2015. “The Coalition and the Decline of Majoritarianism in the UK.” The Political Quarterly, 86(1): 118-124.

(8) P. Schleiter and V. Belu. 2015. “The Challenge of Periods of Caretaker Government in the UK” Parliamentary Affairs, 68(2): 229-247.

Coverage in Civil Service World Apr 28, 2015

(9) P. Schleiter and S. Issar, 2015. “Constitutional Rules and Patterns of Government Termination: The Case of the UK Fixed-Term Parliaments Act.” Government and Opposition. FirstView DOI: 10.1017/gov.2014.45, published online: 16 March 2015.

(10) C. Martinez-Gallardo and P. Schleiter, 2015. “Choosing whom to trust: Agency risks and cabinet partisanship in presidential democracies.” Comparative Political Studies. 48(2): 231-264.

(11) P. Schleiter and V. Belu. 2014. “How to avoid the Squatter in Downing Street controversy: Improving the caretaker conventions before the 2015 General Election.” The Political Quarterly, 85(4): 454-461.

Coverage in The Guardian Jan 19 & Jan 28, 2015, Civil Service World Apr 28, 2015

(12) P. Schleiter and S. Issar. 2014. “Fixed-Term Parliaments and the Challenges for Governments and the Civil Service: A Comparative Perspective.” The Political Quarterly, 85(2): 178-186.

(13) P. Schleiter and A. M. Voznaya, 2014. “Party System Competitiveness and Corruption.” Party Politics. 20(5): 675-686.

(14) P. Schleiter, 2013. “Democracy, Authoritarianism and Ministerial Selection in Russia: How presidential preferences shape technocratic cabinets.” Post-Soviet Affairs, 29(1): 31-55.

(15) P. Schleiter and E. Morgan-Jones, 2010. “Who's in Charge? Presidents, Assemblies and the Political Control of Semi-Presidential Cabinets.” Comparative Political Studies, 43(11): 1415-1441.

(16) P. Schleiter and E. Morgan-Jones, 2009. “Constitutional Power and Competing Risks: Monarchs, Presidents, Prime Ministers, and the Termination of East and West European Cabinets.” American Political Science Review, 103(3): 496-512.

(17) P. Schleiter and E. Morgan-Jones, 2009. Review Article “Citizens, Presidents, and Assemblies: The Study of Semi-Presidentialism beyond Duverger and Linz”, British Journal of Political Science, 39(4): 871-892.

(18) P. Schleiter and E. Morgan-Jones, 2009. “Party Control over European Cabinets?” European Journal of Political Research, 48(5): 665-693.

(19) P. Schleiter and E. Morgan-Jones, 2007. “Semipresidencialismo: decisions constitucionales y consecuencias politicas”, Politica y Gobierno, 14(2): 515-514.

(20) E. Morgan-Jones and P. Schleiter, 2004. Government Change in a President-Parliamentary Regime: The Case of Russia 1994-2003, Post-Soviet Affairs, 20(2): 132-163.

(21) P. Schleiter, 2003. “Mixed Constitutions and Political Instability: The Case of Russia, 1991-1993”, Democratization, 10(1): 1-26.

(22) P. Schleiter, 2002. “Variation in Speaker Power: The Case of the Russian Congress, 1990-1993”, Journal of Legislative Studies, 8(2): 23-48.

(23) P. Chaisty and P. Schleiter, 2002. “Productive but Not Valued: The Russian State Duma, 1994-2001”, Europe Asia Studies, 54(5): 701-724.

Book Chapters, Reports and Blogs

(24) E. Morgan-Jones and P. Schleiter. (forthcoming). “Presidents, Election Timing and the Electoral Performance of Prime Ministers.” In A. Costa-Pinto (et al.) Presidents and Semi-Presidentialism in Contemporary Democracies. (Lisbon: ISS).

(25) P. Schleiter and A. Voznaya. (forthcoming). “When Elections are Free but not Effective: Party Systems and Corruption.” In H. Hardman and B. Dickson, Electoral Rights in Europe - Advances and Challenges (London: Routledge).

(26) P. Schleiter, V. Belu and R. Hazell, 2016. “Forming a government in the event of a hung parliament: The UK’s recognition rules in comparative context.” UCL/DPIR Policy Report,

(27) P. Schleiter and V. Belu, 2015. “May 2015: Who forms the UK government in the event of a hung parliament?” March 13, UCL Constitution Unit Blog,

Coverage in The Guardian Apr 22, 2015 & May 5, 2015, New York Times May 6, 2015

(28) P. Schleiter and V. Belu, 2015. “Why the UK needs improved caretaker conventions before the May 2015 general election.” Jan 26, OxPol,

(29) P. Schleiter and V. Belu, 2014. “Why the Fixed-term Parliaments Act should not be repealed.” Oct 21, OxPol,

(30) R. Elgie and P. Schleiter, 2010. “Variation in the Durability of Semi-Presidential Democracies” in Robert Elgie and Sophia Moestrup and Yu-Shan Wu (eds.) Semi-Presidentialism and Democracy (London: Palgrave).

(31) P. Schleiter and E. Morgan-Jones, 2008. “Russia: The Benefits and Perils of Presidential Leadership” in Robert Elgie and Sophia Moestrup (eds.) Semi-Presidentialism in Central and Eastern Europe (Manchester: Manchester University Press), chapter 10: 159-179.

Work in Progress

(32) P. Schleiter and S. Issar. “Government Terminations in Parliamentary Democracies” (Book Project – completion due 2017)

(33) T. Bӧhmelt, L. Ezrow, R. Lehrer, P. Schleiter, H. Ward, “Cross-Nationally Influential Political Parties,” submitted.(32)

(34) P. Schleiter and M. Tavits, “Voter Reactions to Opportunistic Election Timing,” submitted.

(35) P. Schleiter and E. Morgan-Jones. “Presidents, Assembly Dissolution and the Electoral Performance of Prime Ministers,” submitted.

(36) P. Schleiter and S. Issar. “The Heterogeneity of Early Elections,” submitted.

(37) E. Morgan-Jones and P. Schleiter. “Presidential Influence on Parliamentary Election Timing and the Electoral Fate of Prime Ministers,” submitted.

(38) P. Schleiter and V. Belu. “Fixed term parliaments, flexible election timing and the electoral performance of incumbents.”

(39) P. Schleiter. “Constitutional Variation in Government Accountability and the Survival of Semi-Presidential Democracies.”