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Something startling and new under the British sun: 2010 election results

Posted on the May 7th, 2010

Yesterday’s general election in the UK resulted in a “hung parliament,” as you know if you’re following the news. The Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, won the most votes but still fell short of winning a majority of seats. The British are now faced with the entirely unfamiliar prospect  — to them — of a coalition government.

Writing for Spiegel Online International, Michael Sontheimer explains what happened and why the mixed election result is making the British so nervous (“A Very Un-British Election Result” May 7, 2010).


In the eyes of the Brits, coalition governments have been regarded, at least up until now, as an excessively complex invention by those continental Europeans. Such governments were seen as incapable of action, and coalitions were thought to promote haggling between parties and political corruption.

The British are accustomed to having a single government party and a large opposition party in their parliament. The government — which, thanks to the undemocratic first-past-the-post system, usually had a comfortable majority — dictated their policies; the opposition railed against them. Once the ruling party had run out of steam, the roles were reversed.

Somewhat like the USA system, in fact, where third parties aren’t so very, very popular either.

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