What is up with the global electorate? It seems everywhere you turn these days there’s another hung parliamentary election, with citizens pulled in so many different ideological directions that parties have no idea who to partner with as their coalition bedfellows. The latest example comes from Spain, where prime minister Pedro Sanchez’s centre-left party won a plurality over the weekend – but hardly a majority. The ideological stances of other parties make Sanchez’s options in forming a coalition government next-to impossible.
It used to be that Belgium was the only western nation stuck with the tag of being ungovernable (it still holds the record for spending the longest time without a government). Now, we can add Spain to a long list of uneasy coalitions, minority governments or stalled parliaments ranging from Israel to Italy, Canada to Britain. In many of these cases, parties are not up to the complex challenge; instead, they’re going back to the electorate and seeking a new mandate that could provide some clarity (spoiler alert: fresh elections rarely do).
If you’re looking for some optimism, I’d draw your attention to my home country of Austria. On Sunday, the Greens voted unanimously to enter into formal coalition talks with Sebastian Kurz’s (pictured) conservative People’s Party, whose partner in the previous government was the far-right Freedom Party. Such a left-right coalition would be a first in Austria’s history if (and it’s a big if) the two sides can set aside their differences and form a government. They might be odd bedfellows but this is the hand that politicians are dealt these days. They had better find a way to play it.