Dictionnaire Constitutionnel

Authors: Duhamel & Mény
Summary: An electoral coalition, defined most simply as a grouping of political forces seeking to govern together, is a hallmark of any majoritarian political system. There are different types of electoral coalitions. They may be purely customary, as for instance the "discipline r‚publicaine" among leftist parties in France, by which some parties are expected to withdraw in order to aid the prospects of the party best placed to improve in the second round of voting. Or electoral coalitions may be more formal and obligatory, as for instance before the collapse of the Soviet Union in Eastern European nations like Poland and the German Democratic Republic: in these countries the communist party and allied parties representing farmers and peasants, social democrats, and even Christian democrats ran as a bloc.
The political agendas of electoral coalitions may be relatively contractual, as in the government programs proclaimed in France over the years by various Fronts-popular, republican, etc. Such programs may be more or less ambitious, detailed, and realistic. A looser and more fragile arrangement is exemplified by the electoral coalition in then-West Germany between the liberal party and the Social Democrats.
Finally, electoral laws can have a powerful influence on the composition and efficacy of electoral coalitions. The French electoral law of 9 May 1951, for example, gave all open seats to the coalition that attained an absolute majority or, failing that, gave a premium to the coalition obtaining a plurality. In either case, "union makes might" ("l'union fait la force"). The French law, however, led to cumbersome and hard-to-control coalitions; such a model of electoral coalitions has lost popularity in recent years.