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What is a Coalition Government?

In a parliamentary system such as Canada's, multiple political parties form a coalition government when they agree to share responsibilities in the absence of a majority government.
In Iraq, a coalition government was created in 2004 in an effort to bring the country together after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government.
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  • Originally Written By: Ken Black
  • Revised By: A. Joseph
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2014
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A coalition government is one in which several political parties must cooperate to run a country or region. These types of governments are often considered somewhat weak because there is no majority party. In such cases, the only way that policy gets approved is by each side making concessions.

This type of government, which might also be known as a coalition cabinet, can be one of the most entertaining — and volatile — forms of government. Often, it might be difficult to know how an issue is going to turn out, unlike in some countries where there are two major political parties. In those cases, it is rare when a majority party does not get its way.

Well-known countries that have been run by coalition governments include Germany, Italy, India, Ireland and Israel, among others. After a parliament is seated in these countries, the difficult work of bridging gaps begins. In some cases, these gaps are bridged more easily than in others, because several parties might be in agreement on some issues. In other cases, where there is little agreement, building a coalition takes time.

Some people believe that a coalition government is inefficient. In some cases, it might also increase the risk of underhanded deals and increase corruption, because more politicians could be willing to make deals to get things accomplished. A coalition government also can have members who are very argumentative, even more so than other forms of government, simply because so much is at stake.

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Despite these concerns, however, some people believe that a coalition government has the best opportunity to promote real issues and solve everyday problems. This is because the coalition government is seen by these people as the most accurate representation of the people’s will. Also, proponents believe that a coalition government can lead to greater unity because members of varying backgrounds and ideologies must come together and agree to create policies in the best interest of all.

In addition to long-standing coalitions, a coalition government also can be created at a time of national transition or crisis. In Iraq, for example, a coalition government was created in 2004 in an effort to bring the country together after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government. In this example, various leaders from different religious sects and regions of the country were brought together in an attempt to create policies that would be regarded as beneficial to the Iraqi people as a whole, not just one particular group.

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Discuss this Article

habura
Post 3

Don't coalition governments allow for a lot of turnover in their political leadership? Like in Israel, it seems like there's a new election all the time. If the party in power doesn't have sufficient time to try to implement the plans, how can anything actually get done?

pocurana
Post 2

There's a corruption index, and perhaps shockingly?, coalition governments are not at the top of those lists.

averagejoe
Post 1

As an American, used to a non-coalition style of government, I can't imagine the anxiety and uncertainty that seems inherent in coalition governments. Plus, we're so worried about shady political deals as it is, mustn't it be even more of the case in coalition governments?

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