Political Fragmentation

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A recent government collapse in Sweden illustrates Europe’s increasingly splintered politics.

  • Last Wednesday, Magdalena Andersson, the leader of Sweden’s Social Democratic Party, became her country’s first female prime minister. She initially lasted in the position for only about seven hours.
  • The reason for the historically short tenure was that the Social Democrats’ coalition partners, the Green Party, resigned from the two-party minority government after a budget bill failed to pass.
  • Andersson reassumed the post this week as head of a minority government made up only of her own party, but the episode is the latest manifestation of a much greater phenomenon evident across Europe.
  • Due to growing political fragmentation, it’s getting increasingly difficult across much of the continent— and beyond — for stable governments to form.
  • Few parties are now popular enough to form majority governments on their own or even with multiple coalition partners.
  • Much of the phenomenon can be explained by the rise of far-right parties that capture some votes that used to go to mainstream parties.
  • The emergence of the Greens in many countries has also divided the vote on the left, taking away votes from social democratic parties in particular.
  • This splintering is leading to often volatile coalitions consisting of parties with contradictory policies. At times following divided elections, governments take exceedingly long to form.
  • There’s no greater example than the Netherlands. Dutch politicians have been unable to form a coalition since an inconclusive election nearly nine-months ago saw 17 parties make it into parliament.
  • The danger of Europe’s increasingly splintered politics is the potential for political deadlock to make politicians powerless to confront complex challenges domestic and international.
The Washington Post
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