Americans exasperated by the gridlock in Washington sometimes look enviously at Britain, where the parliamentary system combines executive and legislative duties and the prime minister almost always gets his or her way. Unlike a president who may face a
But as citizens in the United Kingdom go to the polls Thursday, it looks as if the result will not be consistency and clarity but a split vote that may result in some odd and unstable alliances — and perhaps another election in the near future. If pollsters are to be believed, neither Prime Minister
Coalition governments aren't unprecedented in Britain; in fact, since 2010, Cameron has presided over one that included the center-left Liberal
The negotiations are unlikely to be as complicated as those underway to assemble a government in Israel, with its multiplicity of parties. But they could leave the government less stable than usual or unable to reach agreement on certain issues. Or Cameron or Miliband might try to govern without a majority, relying on minor parties not to hold a "no confidence" vote. Such "minority governments" tend to be short-lived. (It's also possible, but unlikely, that Labor and the Conservatives would unite in a left-right "grand coalition.")
Even if the election results in a stable coalition like the one that has governed Britain for the last five years, there will be disputes and compromises within the new government, just as there are in the U.S. On both sides of the Atlantic, and despite quite different political arrangements, politics is often the art of compromise.