Why a hung Parliament might not be all that bad
Apr 27 2010 By Chris Game
Would a hung parliament really be a crisis for Britain? Chris Game looks at the possibilities.
Have you heard the worrying news from Berlin? Germany, it seems, has a hung parliament and coalition government.
Yes, the world’s fourth largest economy, home of both the famous Bundesbank and the European Central Bank, responsible for maintaining financial stability throughout the eurozone, has a form of government that the financial markets apparently regard as weak and unstable.
Disturbing, isn’t it? We know Italy changes governments each year, and that countries like Belgium and the Netherlands go for months without any government at all, yet life still goes on. But Germany, surely not.
And it gets worse. First, this coalition behaviour has been going on for decades. Second, while early coalitions – like that of the Christian Democrats (CDU) with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) – were hardly legally sanctioned marriages, they were at least faithful, committed long-term partnerships that, appropriately, Christians could sniffily accept.
Recently, though, German political parties have become swingers, changing partners more often than Strictly Come Dancing. In the 2005 elections, the ‘red-green’ coalition between the Social Democrats (SDP) and the Greens lost its previous majority, but not sufficiently badly for the CDU, headed by Angela Merkel, to have a majority on its own.
What eventually emerged was a “grand coalition” between the two big parties, the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats. Then, in the 2009 elections, the SDP suffered its heaviest defeat ever, enabling Chancellor Merkel and her CDU to form an ideologically cosier administration with their traditional partners, the FDP.
The reason for these goings-on, of course, is that Germany, like most European countries, has a proportional representation system of election that – quaintly to us – gives parties roughly the same proportions of seats in Parliament as the proportions of votes they receive from electors.