Political parties around the world form coalitions for many reasons: to improve electoral prospects, to form a majority for government or to usher their countries through periods of crisis. In a new NDI and Oslo Center publication, experienced political leaders who have worked in coalitions in their own countries share their perspectives on how to make coalition-building efforts successful.
Coalitions: A Guide for Political Parties identifies five key steps in coalition-building: developing a party strategy, negotiating a coalition, getting started, working in coalition and drawing lessons learned. The publication includes practical tips and advice from political leaders around the world and worksheets for each step of the process.
The guide also includes case studies that illuminate the five steps in coalition-building through lessons learned. Former Minister and Senator Sergio Bitar describes the origins of Chile’s Coalition of Parties for Democracy (Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia) and explains its success in forming a coalition. He recalls, “It was a period of tremendous energy...Exiles returned in great numbers and a robust interior-exterior symbiosis began to produce a common strategy...A consensus emerged: nobody could do this alone….the result was not just a coalition to win an election but a coalition to actually govern the country.” Initially coming together to campaign against the extension of Pinochet’s rule in a 1988 referendum, the coalition went on to win every election from 1990-2010. According to Bitar, responsible economic policies, favorable economic conditions and international recognition all contributed to the coalition’s success.
John Bruton, Ireland’s prime minister from 1994-1997, describes how political advisors helped smooth over inevitable differences between the parties in the coalition government he led. According to Bruton, political advisors were “particularly effective in ironing out technical disputes on politically sensitive issues that had absorbed too much time and emotional energy at cabinet meetings of previous coalitions.” Political advisors looked after their minister’s political interests, relations with his/her party and worked with other managers to ensure the agreed-upon coalition program was implemented across the government. By delegating responsibility for the daily work of maintaining the coalition, ministers could focus on governing.
In this video, Former Norwegian Prime Minister and Oslo Center President Kjell Magne Bondevik, a contributor to the guide, describes his country’s longstanding tradition of political compromise and constructive opposition. He shares some of the techniques that Norwegian parties have used to negotiate compromises and to ensure that their members are consulted about their party’s participation in coalitions. He expresses the hope that the guide will be useful to political parties all over the world.
The National Endowment for Democracy generously provided funding for the guide. For more information, please see the Overview of the Coalition Guide or contact us ([email protected] or [email protected]).
Published on November 3, 2015