A coalition government is a form of government where different political parties cooperate to form a power bloc that intends to improve governance and secure stability, or to oust a majority party that governs as though the people are there to serve them. It can be applied at national or local government level. Coalitions can be complex but can likewise be successful. They are not the mark of failure, but they are rather a sign of a growing political environment. Although we have a young democracy in South Africa, it started with great hopes for a bright future. But the…
A coalition government is a form of government where different political parties cooperate to form a power bloc that intends to improve governance and secure stability, or to oust a majority party that governs as though the people are there to serve them. It can be applied at national or local government level.
Coalitions can be complex but can likewise be successful. They are not the mark of failure, but they are rather a sign of a growing political environment. Although we have a young democracy in South Africa, it started with great hopes for a bright future. But the bright light has, in many, instances faded and pushed us towards darkness and failure.
A successful coalition puts aside egos and petty differences to make a positive impact in favour of the citizenry. A successful coalition is not driven by who shouts the loudest, or who can sabotage who to gain favour and score cheap political points.
A successful coalition is characterised by political parties that have an ideological overlap. Despite our constitution allowing for a majoritarian system of government, it has highlighted the failures of the current ruling party. It has been allowed to morph into a style of government that borders on being dictatorial, tyrannical and keen to punish or shame success.
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Yet it has also demonstrated the folly of the majority system driven by the day’s populist views. That is not to say that our ruling party has not had some small successes in applying governance, but its track record is littered with failures and bad decisions that have impoverished both the country and the people.
For a coalition to be successful, it requires a very clear and unambiguous agreement between the partaking parties – an agreement all partaking parties will strive to honour at all times. Most important is the contract between participating political parties to govern for the advantage and to the benefit of the voters.
Unless this is a cornerstone of the coalition agreement, the coalition will not succeed. It also requires that all partaking parties and members of participating parties leave their egos at home and realise that they are entrusted to act for and on behalf of the voters and not themselves. The ideological overlap ought to strengthen a coalition and not weaken it. It is the shared vision of a successful government that is the cement to its power.
But a coalition between two diametrically opposed party ideologies will merely lead to confrontation. Correctly applied, a coalition is proof that unity and strength benefits everyone. To be successful, all partaking parties must display flexibility, openness, transparency and they must be cooperative and mature in their actions and decisions.
If these basic tenets are adhered to, smaller party coalitions can defeat a behemoth and relegate it to a minor role by forcing its tantrums and threats to be of little to no consequence.
Coalitions are, however, doomed to fail when smaller parties in the coalition are considered irrelevant, their voices discounted, and they are not considered in the decision-making processes.
remains critical, regardless how small the role players may appear. Sidelining smaller parties in the coalition will result in resentment and create cracks in the coalition’s strength. The agreements between the partaking political parties are in simple terms, a contract which ought to benefit everyone in terms of being successful.
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It is also necessary for parties to acknowledge where they are wrong or do not have necessary skills in a certain area.
South Africans have become so tired of hearing false promises while watching the country’s infrastructure collapse around them, that they no longer really care who governs. They want – or rather demand – a government that shows it truly governs for its people.
American author Frank Herbert stated that it is the personal qualities of those who govern that enable good governance. Therefore, choosing the leaders of government is critical. A successful coalition government doesn’t practise political thuggery.
The insulting and scandalous behaviour so frequently witnessed in our halls of power is both insulting and shameful. That is neither politics nor leadership, but the complete absence thereof. To survive in the toxic political environment the government has created, it is necessary for political parties and individual candidates to stand up and be counted to save the country.
A coalition government may be the last hope to save our country from the poisoned political landscape that has been created.
-Mashaba is a political advisor