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Coalition government

A coalition government, or coalition cabinet, is a cabinet in parliamentary government in which several parties cooperate. The usual reason is that no party on its own has a majority in the parliament.

Cabinets based on a coalition with majority in the parliament ideally are more stable and longlived than minority cabinets. While the former are prone to internal strugles, they have less reason to fear votes of non confidence.

Coalition cabinets are usual in countries where the parliament is proportionally representative for several political parties. It does not appear at all in countries where the government is chosen by the president rather than the house of representatives (such as France, the United States and Russia). Countries that often have a coalition cabinets include the Nordic countries, the Benelux, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Israel and India. Sometimes a coalition government is also created in times of large difficulties, for example war, to give the government a high degree of political legitimacy and acceptability diminishing internal political strife.

To deal with a situation where no clear majorities appear, parties either form coalition cabinets, supported by a parliamentary majority, or minority cabinets which can consist of one or several parties.

In Germany, for instance, coalitions are the norm as it is rare for either the CDU/CSU or SPD to win a majority of their own. Thus coalitions are formed with at least one of the smaller parties. Helmut Kohl's CDU governed for years in coalition with the FDP, Gerhard Schröder's SPD today is in a coalition with the Greens. If a coalition collapses a confidence vote is held. Only once has the government lost a confidence vote.

A similar situation exists in Israel with its dozens of parties. The centre-right Likud thus forms coalitions with far right and orthodox groups, while Labour allies itself with more leftist and pacifist parties.

In both countries, grand coalitions of the two large parties also occur, but these are rarer and large parties usually prefer to associate with small ones.

A coalition can consist of any number of parties. In Germany, a coalition rarely consists of more than two parties (i.e. if we count CDU and CSU as one party), while in Belgium, where there are separate Dutch language and French language parties for each political group, coalitions of six parties are quite common. India's governing coalition, the National Democratic Alliance, consists of thirteen different parties. Finland experienced her most stable government since the independence with a five-party coalition established in the 1990s.

See also: cohabitation, First Past the Post electoral system