Coalition governments: The birthplace of gridlock

Published 01.06.2015 22:51
Updated 02.06.2015 00:25

In an article three weeks ago, I was quoted as saying that financial markets rally about a month before an upcoming election should polls predict a single-party government. I went on to say that profit-taking occurs after that rally as the rumor has already been bought and it's now time to sell the news. My predictions, based on previous Turkish elections, came true. What most pundits would have wanted, including myself, is for the margin of error and spreads of polls to comfortably predict an outcome as election day neared. Although polls have consistently predicted an outright majority for the ruling AK Party, the division of seats in opposition has never been clear and continues to be uncertain.

During every election, pundits dust off Churchill and his famous quote about how democracy is bad but every other form of government is much worse. These remarks predate the prevalence of coalition governments. A European phenomenon by birth, the coalition government is for investors the worst kind of government. Had Churchill lived through the coalition governments that paralyzed many European countries, including Turkey, in the last quarter-century, I"m sure he would have spoken to his aversion of such regimes. Even his beloved Conservative Party is in deep trouble in the U.K., ruling with a 36 percent "majority." This means that 64 percent of the country voted against Churchill's party and this is bad for progress.

So why not have a direct democracy in which the number of seats in the legislature is proportional to the election results? Why don't direct democracies exist practically anywhere in the world? The United States, the United Kingdom and most "developed" nations have regional elections in states or districts which are theoretically set up so that one region of the country doesn't hold sway over another. This system leads to lopsided results as happened in the last U.K. election. Technically, the next president of the United States could be elected with 25 percent of the vote. This can't be the best form of democracy, right?

In theory coalition governments are great. They produce an executive branch ruled by several diverse groups in which the interests of all are equally heeded. Then why not form a coalition government with all elected parties? Why don't we all run the country together? In theory this is a great idea, but running a company or country by committee often results in gridlock and stagnation. Italy is a great example of this. Electing a new government nearly every 18 months for the last half-century, Italy is plagued with bad government. It is unable to move forward primarily because of its weak coalition governments.

What makes coalition governments so bad? Generally they exist with barely enough votes to hold on to a majority. In this case all members of parliament are able to take the legislative process hostage. Governments collapse, new elections are held, in the interim the economy is put on hold. Investors are hesitant to put money to work in uncertain environments. Years pass by, infrastructure is neglected, lobbying coalition parties against each other take over, government after government collapses.

Ideally I wouldn't have to vote. I want for Turkey to become a country in which the bureaucracy is on autopilot. One in which civil institutions have emerged and government entities operate irrespective of politics. A country in which my elected officials are the professional managers hired by the people to run the back-office of the country. One in which civil liberties are respected and the wishes of the people, all the people, supersede grand designs and declarations made by old men a century ago.

We are closer to this dream now in Turkey than we have ever been. As Turkey is moving toward a more balanced and egalitarian society, the West is moving in the opposite direction. Turkey's middle class has taken hold after a decade of progress, thanks in large part to economic reforms and increases in incomes across the board. In the United States and elsewhere the middle class is disappearing. A greater divide is forming between the rich and the poor.

Following this election, I hope Turkey follows a path as far as possible from that of Italy's graveyard of coalition governments. Whether this be an Americanstyle presidential system or one in which a run-off occurs, the majority of the people need to be choosing our leaders. Don't forget to vote.

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