This post has been in my drafts for a while so it’s beyond time to finish it. So I will publish it in two-parts so that it is more manageable. FCNN84DQDUFT
In Australia we tend to think that our new minority government is the exception rather than the rule. But could it be that minority government is becoming the rule rather than an exception – even in Australia? The purpose of this article is to argue against the orthodox the proposition that:
our present minority government is an aberration that will soon correct itself and we’ll return to our more familiar two-party Australian system of a majority from either Labor or the Liberal-National Party Coalition forming government.
What’s Happening in Europe?
The Swedish elections held most recently on 19th September found the ruling centre-right party (Alliansen) falling 3 seats short of forming a majority against the Socialdemokraterna (the Social Democrats), who have continued to lose ground since the previous 2006 election. The extreme-right-wing party Sverigedemokraterna (the Sweden Democrats) increased its vote and now holds a key position in the new hung parliament.
In the Belgium elections held on 13th June, this year, the New Flemish Alliance of Belgium (NVA) gained 27 seats to lead the Socialist Party tally of 26 (of the 150 seats of the legislative Parliament). Of the remaining seats, the Socialists (PS) hold 18 and the Christian Democrats 17. The NVA party stood on a separatist platform of dividing the northern Dutch-speaking region of Flanders from the French-speaking region of Wallonia. However, in order to form government, the NVA must first construct a minority government with a Walloon-based party, so separation seems unlikely in the near future.
The Slovakian Elections held on the 12th June, were supposed to be “reassuringly boring” but instead resulted in the 4-center-right parties forming a new coalition with a total of 79 seats in a 150-seat parliament. The surprise was not so much a decline in support for former Prime Minister Robert Fico, whose party Smer-SD (Direction-Social Democracy) increased in percentage of the popular vote, but that a sharp drop in support for his leftist political allies allowed a coalition of center-right opposition parties to replace them. As a result, Iveta Radičová has become the first-female Prime Minister of Slovakia after Fico failed to form a coalition government.
In the Netherlands elections held on 9 June 2010 this year, the Liberal VVD party held 31 seats to the Labour party (PvdA) with 30 in a 150-seat parliament. The surprise was the 24 seats gained by far-right Party for Freedom (PVV), led by Geert Wilders who is currently facing prosecution for incitement to racial hatred for his outspoken anti-Islamic statements. After four months of backroom discussions it now seems that the VVD of Mark Rutte will form a minority government with the Christian Democrats (CD) and the PVV of Geert Wilders (with the slimmest margin of 76 seats in a 150 seat parliament - a remarkably similar situation – numbers-wise – to that in Canberra).
Elections in the Czech Republic for the legislative Chamber of Deputies took place on 28–29 May 2010 also resulted in a Conservative-right coalition of parties, ousting Jiří Paroubek, who led the Social Democrats (ČSSD) and gained the largest percentage of popular support but was unable to form a minority government. The Czech Republic had previously been governed by a Caretaker administration after former Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek had lost a crushing no-confidence vote during 2009.
So far 2010 has been a watershed year for Europe with the political landscape making a seismic-shift, but not in a uniform manner, some increased support has gone to the right-of-centre parties but fractionated between other groupings as well. Could it be that, in our current situation in Australia, that we are caught up in international trends that we have so-far overlooked?
The counter-argument to this is: no, what’s this to do with Australia? European politics has never had anything in common with Australia and European parliaments are commonly multi-party and use proportional voting systems. Bearing this in mind, but proceding with our argument, let’s first examine what’s happening in the rest of the Commonwealth …
What’s Happening in the Rest of the Commonwealth?
We now have minority governments in those other Commonwealth nations with which we strongly identify: in Britain, Canada and New Zealand. After our Federal elections on 21 August, Australian has joined those other Commonwealth nations with a minority government. Sapidblog argues that this is no accident and is part of an international trend to greater fractionation of political support. Sapidblog also suggests that we in Australia are in for a much longer period of minority government than most of the pundits currently predict.
To be continued in Part 2 …