The rationale for coalition government

Authored by: J.A.A. Stockwin

Routledge Handbook of Japanese Politics

Print publication date:  February  2011
Online publication date:  February  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415551373
eBook ISBN: 9780203829875
Adobe ISBN: 9781136818387

10.4324/9780203829875.ch4

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Abstract

Government by a coalition of political parties, rather than by a single party having a parliamentary majority, looks like a recipe for indecisive management and fuzzy policymaking. Every decision has to be teased out in complex negotiations between parties having different priorities and motivated to compete with each other as well as to co-operate. The formation of a cabinet will take place at one remove from the electorate. When, by contrast, a single party is in charge of the nation’s affairs, the will of the electorate will be expressed in clear legislation originating from a single accountable command structure. The politics of Weimar Germany, of France under the Fourth Republic (1946–58) and of Italy between the end of the Second World War and the early 1990s demonstrate the instability and inefficiency of coalition government, whereas politics in the United Kingdom (for example) show how a single party in power between general elections is able to act decisively and fulfill the mandate given to it by the electorate in the shape of desired and effective legislation. Electoral systems tending to promote competition between two major parties (especially first-past-the-post in single-member districts) are preferable to systems of proportional representation that favor party fragmentation and coalition government.

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