These questions – and more – are the subject of a seminar at the Institute for Government – ‘50 Ways to Leave a Coalition’. In practice, there may not be 50 distinct scenarios, but as our panellists from the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany and Sweden will illustrate, there are quite a range of potential endgames. In the Netherlands, for instance, few recent coalitions have lasted the full four-year term. Disputes over budgets, foreign policy and immigration have triggered early splits over the past decade. And the parties responsible for coalition collapses have tended to lose out in the following election. The last coalition in Ireland also came to a sticky end, as the smaller Green Party withdrew a few months from the finish line, in the midst of the financial crisis. The party had hoped to save at least a few seats by distancing themselves from the unpopular Fianna Fail. Yet both parties were decimated at the polls, with the Greens wiped out altogether. German coalitions tend to last the full four years – there is a deeply-rooted aversion to government instability borne out of Weimar history, and a strong constitutional bar to early elections that helps in this regard. There […]

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