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Mushrooming Alliances! Exploring pros and cons of coalition politics

02 Apr 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

  •  A stable government is imperative for garnering the confidence of FDI and engaging with international financial institutions 

Pre-electoral alliances and post-election coalitions among political parties have emerged as significant features in contemporary politics. 
An examination of this political phenomenon is crucial for understanding election dynamics and the processes of government formation and sustainability. It is heartening to observe a relative increase in studies dedicated to alliances and coalitions over the past decade. However, despite this progress, several aspects of this phenomenon remain largely understudied.
While many studies investigate the causes behind the formation of alliances and coalitions, only a limited number have delved into their broader effects on the political landscape, party dynamics, and democratic systems. Conversely, coalition theories predominantly draw from the experiences of Western European countries, resulting in an excessive emphasis on post-election coalitions.
Coalitions and alliances have proven to be inadequate in delivering the stability necessary to inspire confidence among Foreign Direct Investors (FDI) and to effectively engage with international financial institutions such as the World Bank and IMF.
An electoral alliance, known by various terms such as bipartisan electoral agreement, electoral pact, electoral coalition, or electoral bloc, is a cooperative arrangement among political parties or individuals aimed at jointly contesting elections; a phenomenon observed globally. These alliances may be formed before or after election results are announced. Typically, alliances are based on shared ideological positions, with parties of opposing ideologies unlikely to collaborate. 
However, in the unpredictable realm of politics, unexpected alliances can occur, driven by a range of issues and considerations. Usually, it involves smaller parties aligning with a larger, well-established political party. 
Each smaller party within the alliance retains its  policies but sets aside differences temporarily in pursuit of a common objective of attaining power. The larger party often meticulously conceals its intentions and policies to garner additional votes. 

 Democratic world’s oldest alliance

The oldest and the only enduring electoral alliance in the world persists between the Labour Party and the Co-operative Party, of the United Kingdom, wherein the Co-operative Party nominates Labour Co-operative candidates in various constituencies for general elections and certain local council elections. This alliance has been in place since 1927. As of the 2019 general election, there are 38 Labour Co-operative MPs, constituting the fourth-largest political grouping in the Commons, following the Conservative Party, Labour, and the Scottish National Party. Since 1927, the Co-operative Party has maintained an electoral pact with the Labour Party, wherein both parties refrain from fielding candidates against each other.
Electoral politics in India poses a significant challenge for comparative analysis due to the unique transition and consolidation of democracy, as well as the intricate interactions between socio-economic complexities and parliamentary institutions in its heterogeneous society. Since the 1990s, India has witnessed a complex electoral landscape alongside sustained economic growth. 
A coalition of political parties may unite to establish a government, particularly when no single party commands a clear majority. Pre-election pacts involve agreements between parties to collaborate during electoral campaigns, often refraining from fielding candidates against each other in certain constituencies. On the other hand, legislative alliances denote agreements between parties to cooperate on specific legislative proposals or issues. International alliances, or Ideological Alliances such as the ‘Fourth International,’ unite Trotskyist groups across countries to collaborate on common goals or values. Electoral alliances, on the other hand, are temporary agreements between parties to combine resources and support each other during an election campaign. These alliances play a crucial role in shaping political landscapes, influencing policy outcomes, and determining the composition of governments. Here are some key types of political party alliances.
Political party alliances are vital tools for enhancing influence, consolidating power, and managing the details of democratic governance. By pooling their strengths, resources, and support bases, parties collaborate to pursue shared goals and further mutual interests. In electoral politics, alliances empower parties to optimize their electoral prospects through resource pooling, coordinated campaign strategies, and presenting a unified image to voters. Pre-electoral alliances broaden appeal, extend electoral reach, and enhance success prospects. Meanwhile, post-electoral coalitions offer essential support and stability for effective governance and policy implementation.

Oldest Coalition Government of Sri Lanka

Independent Ceylon’s inaugural Cabinet under D.S. Senanayake was formed as a coalition government. Following the 1947 election, the United National Party (UNP) led by D.S. Senanayake did not secure a clear majority, winning only 42 out of 95 seats. However, they managed to establish a government in coalition with the All Ceylon Tamil Congress and several independents. Notably, the Cabinet included two Tamil ministers, C. Suntharalingam and C. Sittambalam. Despite Suntharalingam’s resignation later on, G.G. Ponnambalam, leader of the All-Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) joined the government.
The Dudley Senanayake government of 1965 was known as a National Government or a seven-party coalition. This coalition included the United National Party (UNP), Sri Lanka Freedom Socialist Party (SLFSP), Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK), All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC), Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), Jathika Vimukthi Peramuna (Rajaratnes), and the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC). Notably, some parties joined the coalition after the election results were announced. Dudley’s coalition from 1965 to 1970 stands out as the only such government to complete its full term.
In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s government engaged in negotiations with the influential left-wing parties, the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and the Communist Party (CP). This resulted in a coalition government, which was short-lived and ended abruptly due to a conspiracy led by JR Jayewardene. However, the leftist parties continued their cooperation until the 1970 election, forming an alliance known as the United Left Front, which achieved a significant victory. The alliance dissolved in 1975 when the Marxists sought to impose their socialist policies, disregarding the right-wing aspirations of the old-guard SLFPers.
The failures of alliances and coalitions often arise from the eventual return to their original status quo by the smaller parties, which initially set aside differences to pursue power, and the larger party, which meticulously conceals its intentions and policies. Once power is consolidated, the larger party tends to prioritize its own agenda, marginalizing the smaller parties and disregarding the collective interests of the coalition. 
This dynamic often leads to a breakdown in communication and cooperation among coalition partners, as conflicting agendas and diverging priorities emerge. Such internal conflicts can manifest in various forms, including policy gridlock, infighting among coalition members, and challenges in decision-making processes.
 As a result, the government’s ability to effectively address pressing issues and implement coherent policies becomes severely compromised. This lack of cohesion and unity within the government can have far-reaching repercussions, including economic instability, social unrest, and loss of public trust in the political leadership. In extreme cases, it may even lead to government collapse or political turmoil, further exacerbating the nation’s challenges and hindering its progress.
A stable government is imperative for garnering the confidence of FDI and engaging with international financial institutions such as the World Bank and IMF. In the context mentioned, coalitions and alliances have demonstrated past failures in delivering this stability due to the selfish motives of stakeholders, particularly the so-called leaders.
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