What is Hung Parliament?

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Most general elections in a two party system will result in one party getting an absolute majority and thus forming a new government. A hung parliament is the opposite of this pattern and may be considered abnormal or unattractive. One or both major parties may look for to form a coalition government with minor parties, or a minority government relying on support from other parties or independent members. If the efforts fail in making a majority government, dissolution of the parliament and fresh elections can be the last choice. In a multi party system it is common to make a coalition government after negotiations and the subject term is not used for this kind of arrangements.

The most recent example of the subject phenomenon is the recent elections of UK. The election took place in 650 constituencies in the United Kingdom under the first-past-the-post system. None of the parties achieved the 326 seats required for an overall majority. The Conservative Party, led by David Cameron, won the largest number of votes and seats but still fell short of twenty seats. This resulted in a parliament where no party was in a majority in the House of Commons. This was only the second general election since World War II to return to a balanced parliament, the first in the February 1974 election. But unlike that, it was widely considered and predicted to be a balanced parliament and therefore the people were prepared for the constitutional process that would take after such result. First coalition government was formed in British history from an election outcome.

In a parliament where a coalition government is working, some are of the view that it can lead to internal strife and horse trading, as the coalition partners bargain to reach an agreement that allows them to move forwards. Every political party wants to make a strong power base and that’s why political parties don’t like the idea of a balanced parliament. But for the people there is nothing to fear because the balanced parliament maximises accountability and that is a good thing. Parliaments with balanced political power are more democratic. Instead of one party having all the authority, the power is shared equally and more people’s views are represented. But it’s more likely to collapse due to differences. It takes longer for decisions to be made and implemented. The people get weaker legislation because those responsible for legislation are trying to please all parties of the coalition.

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