Grand coalition

From Academic Kids

Template:Mergewith A grand coalition is a coalition government in a parliamentary system where political parties representing a vast majority of the parliament unite in a coalition. The term is most commonly used in countries where there are two dominant parties with different ideological orientations, and a number of smaller parties which are large enough to secure representation in the parliament. Typically in such a country, the two large parties will each try to secure enough seats in any election to have a majority government alone, and if this fails each will attempt to form a coalition with smaller parties that have a similar ideological orientation. Because the two large parties will tend to differ on major ideological issues, they will usually find it more difficult to agree on a common direction for a combined government than with smaller parties.

However, there are circumstances where normally opposing parties may find it desirable to form a government. One is a national crisis such as a war or depression, where people feel a need for national unity and stability that overcomes ordinary ideological differences. This is especially true where there is broad agreement about the best policy to deal with the crisis. In this case, a grand coalition may occur even when one party has enough seats to govern alone. An example would be the United Kingdom national governments during World War I and before and during World War II.

Another possibility is that the major parties may find they have more in common ideologically with each other than with the smaller parties, or that the fragmentation of the smaller parties is so great that no other coalition is stable. Examples include Austria, where the mainstream parties of the left and right have often formed grand coalitions to keep parties of the far left or far right out of government (an example of a cordon sanitaire), or Israel, where in some parliaments the fragmentation and intransigence of some of the smaller parties has made it easier to maintain a coherent platform with a grand coalition than with a narrow one.

In some countries, the presence of persistent grand coalitions often frustrates voters and minor parties, who feel that it offers them no real choice in government. This makes protest votes more common in these countries.

German grand coalition

In the politics of Germany, only one grand coalition (Große Koalition) has ever been formed, between the Social Democratic Party of Germany and the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, the two most important political parties in Germany. Germany has historically tended to favor narrow coalitions between parties with natural alignments, such as SPD-Green or CDU/CSU-FDP coalitions. A grand coalition would only occur if one of these natural alignments broke down, or if far left or far right parties were to secure significant representation in the Bundestag.

The grand coalition in Germany was formed on 1 December 1966 as a result of arguments about tax rises between the CSU-CDU-FDP coalition of the time. The FDP minister stood down and a new government was formed with the SPD under Kurt Georg Kiesinger. This lasted until 1969. This grand coalition's time in power was marked by the student unrest in Germany as a result of its passing of the German emergency legislature in 1968.

Other examples of grand coalitions

See also


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