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COALITIONS AND COALITION MANAGEMENT
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COALITIONS AND COALITION
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Monday, 3-Jun-2013 05:42
COALITIONS AND COALITION MANAGEMENT
SYNOPSIS
Coalitions and coalition politics have occupied my mind and my practical work for quite some time.
What prompted me to bring my various writings and my collection of writings of selected
practitioners and scholars into the form of a book was my observation of the general widespread
negative attitude vis-à-vis coalitions and coalitions government among politicians, the media and
sections of the public. The depictions of coalitions speak for themselves. The words used to
describe coalitions carry often a negative connotation. One talks of ‘coalescing’, and of coalitions
as a ‘necessary evil’, and a ‘marriage of convenience’, which suggests the inferior quality of such
arrangements and the values they are based on. The nature of such government is deemed a
“compromise” which is derogatorily called ‘false’, ‘foul’, and even ‘very fishy’. Moreover,
coalitions governments are usually described as ‘weak’ and ‘unstable’, very much in contrast to
one-party governments, which are naturally seen as ‘strong’, ‘united’ and ‘stable’. With this valuecharged
view, two of the most important democratic values, compromise and coalescing, which are
at the heart of any democratic behaviour, are desecrated and derogated.
That the above negative stereotypes dominate public thinking and debate was obvious during the
press conference of May 12, 2010 by David Cameron and Nick Clegg, when the two men
announced and explained the rationale and functioning of the first British coalition government
since the end of the Second World War. Representatives of international and domestic new agencies,
senior journalists and political commentators alike demonstrated to the viewers their own narrow
understanding of the concept behind ‘coalitions’ and ‘coalition government’. The very fact that two
previously fiercely competing political parties could now form and unite behind one government
was inconceivable to the journalists. And doubts that such an arrangement could work were vividly
expressed. Could two opposing camps of political ideology unite behind a coalition program of
government with shared responsibilities and joint action? Could this government speak with one
voice to the public and share duties? Here is the beauty of coalition politics, which shows the voters
that divides can be bridged, agreement can be reached by compromise and that out of a process of
negotiations a coalition government can arise. The coalition government unites former foes and
binds them to common objectives. For this to happen, major shifts in the political culture and mores
of a polity are prerequisites. Political actors have to learn the rules, strategies and tactics necessary
for such an arrangement to work. The public has to accept that their political representatives
translate the people’s mandate into practical politics through negotiation. In the process rivals
become partners who govern based on broad agreements of a new coalition.
That coalition government can be stable is convincingly demonstrated by my native Germany,
where coalition governments composed of very different political parties have reigned almost
uninterruptedly for the last 60 years. How such governments come into being and what mechanisms
they create in order to become operational is crucial for the success of any coalition government.
Usually the professional preparation of a coalition is an important factor. However, it is in no way a
guarantee that the subsequent government will in effect work and endure. The latest governing
coalition in Germany between conservatives and liberals is maybe a case in point. However, clear is
also that without careful preparation and no professional set-up of the mechanisms and structures
coalition governments need, coalitions are certainly doomed to fail. Democracy does not occur
naturally. It needs strong institutional foundations of law and order. Depending on those
institutional frameworks, the types of coalition and coalition government is predetermined. A
further important determining factor, moreover, is the political culture in a society, its history and
traditions. They shape and determine the accepted sets and pattern of political behaviour and
thereby limit the choices of alternative options for political action.
Political culture manifests itself in both formal and informal behavioural rules. These rules have
either come into existence through an evolutionary process by which the relevant actors arrive at the
most effective arrangements through trial and error or by way of rational ad-hoc agreements.
Normally, these rules are agreed on by all relevant actors before entering a coalition government but
informal ad-hoc arrangements may be equally important. In fact, practitioners often point out that
informal coalition structures – e.g. the chemistry between key actors – are the main ingredient for
successful inter-party cooperation.
Coalition politics is at the centre of any democratic polity regardless of the institutional design of
the political system. We find artful coalition managers in presidential systems as well as in
parliamentary democracies: we find them in electoral plurality systems with districts as well as in
systems with list-proportional representations: we find them in new and old democracies of any
kind and in any part of the world, wether in Europe, Africa, America and Asia. Of course the
history, traditions, culture and socio-economic conditions of the various nations and polities differ
and so their coalitions and their coalition management differ. However, in politics it is always useful
to look around and analyse what others are doing, even if no direct lessons can be learned and
conclusions drawn. The study of political phenomena will deepen and enrich our understanding of
democracy and the political processes in democratic societies.
This book is based on a text which I produced for a book published in Bahasa Indonesia on the very
same topic in 2007. This predecessor was the first of its kind in the archipelago. It was meant to be
“work in progress”, meaning that it was not seen by me as a finished product rather it was open to
additions, improvements, and inclusion of new texts and materials. I have subsequently applied
many elements of this first book to inform the Pakatan Rakyat coalition about strategic options,
structures and processes useful for coalitions in opposition. This English edition is based on the
Indonesian version but together with Sebastian Braun, my co-author, we have totally re-worked the
original manuscript. We have taken out the translations of three German coalition agreements.
This book consists of three chapters and one annex. The first chapter presents a short overview of
the main forms of coalitions and the conditions under which they operate. It also includes some
basic information on how these coalition governments operate and how the professionalisation of
the coalition management progresses. Examples are drawn mainly from India, Australia and
Germany, all with very different histories, political cultures, traditions, institutions and structures.
Reference is also made to the forms of coalition emerging in Indonesia. The second chapter of the
book concentrates on the experiences in Germany and contains three contributions from very
different backgrounds. We present the views of Manfred Richter, a former national politician and
coalition manager of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) in Germany. Mr. Richter has vast experience
of political management at the national, state and city level. He was also a senior power holder in
the party and has helped to design and conduct electoral campaigns at various levels. The second
essay was written by Sebastian Braun (at that time programme manager of the Friedrich Naumann
Foundation’s regional office for Southeast and East Asia in Bangkok) and describes the coalition
negotiations between CDU/CSU and FDP in Germany after the national elections in 2009. The third
contribution is from academe. Sabine Kropp has extensively researched coalition politics in
Germany and is a widely published and highly regarded authority. She analysed coalition
agreements, publishing the findings in 1998, followed by a book in 2001 called Governing in
Coalitions – options for action and decision-making. She kindly allowed us to translate her original
essay from German to English and use it for this book. The third chapter consists of a summary and
conclusion. In the annex we present the text of the 2009 German coalition agreement which also
includes conflict management and resolution mechanisms in case of dispute and disagreements
among the coalition partners. The second example in the annex is the common policy framework of
the Pakatan Rakyat coalition in Malaysia.
This book is not meant to be a theoretical standard work of political science; instead it might
become useful as a guide for practitioners in political parties and parliaments, civil society and
generally for people interested in politics. I hope that the readers gain some insights into coalition
politics as practised in some selected countries but especially in my native Germany. I also hope
that the presented analysis inspires and encourages people to think beyond the current frontiers and
thereby change the paradigms pertaining to the assessment of parliamentary democracies of the
continental European type. Furthermore, I hope that the examples presented from Asia show the
dynamics of political decision-making and compromise as we can observe them currently in these
nascent democracies. European and Asian democracies can learn a great deal from each others
experience. It is my hope that coalescing and compromise are regaining the respect and appreciation
which these values deserve so that democrats worldwide treasure instead of loathe them.
Special thanks go to our German intern, Ms. Ann-Christine Winkler, for the collection of basic
materials on the subject. I wish to thank Mr. David Harrison-Smith, a young academic from Sydney,
Australia, who worked with the Foundation in spring 2007 for the preparation of data sets and the
drafting of the two sections on India and Australia. My co-author Sebastian Braun, contributed to
the book’s completion by updating the part on Indonesia and composing the sections on Malaysia,
Thailand, coalition theory and coalition research in chapter 1. He also wrote the part on the
coalition negotiations in Germany in 2009 in chapter 3. Ultimately any responsibility for errors and
misjudgements remains with us, the two lead authors.

Rainer Adam
Bangkok, June 2011

MAKLUMAT BUKU
Judul: Coalitions and Coalition Management
Pengarang: Rainer Adam, Sebastian Braun
ISBN : ISBN: 978-967-11185-9-7
Harga: RM30
Mukasurat: 137
Terbitan: 2013

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