A coalition is the result of groups of people entering into an alliance for either the greater good or in their own self-interest. Being realistic it’s almost always a case of the latter and rarely the former.
In many countries, especially those with some form of proportional representation, coalition governments are the norm. Typically a large party will win a large or the largest percentage of the vote, but not enough to form a majority government. Said party will then enter into negotiations with smaller parties to form a coalition government, each sacrificing some policies but being able to implement more or less those that matter to them most. So far, so groovy.
The hard part is keeping the lid on the inherent self-interests. Each coalition member is actually in competition with its partners and is always keeping an eye on its own supporters and future elections. In essence, this is like a loveless marriage with one partner constantly balancing his or her career prospects against the advantages of being hitched in the first place. In short, if you’re not careful that quick and desperate shag can cost a lot more than first envisaged.
In 2010 the Conservative Party formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. This is the first UK coalition government since the Second World War. Again, just like a marriage everyone got to see the party leaders turn out for the photographers with big smiles on the happy occasion. The rings, however, weren’t on show, but had no doubt been tongued senseless before the ceremony. Word of who was shafted afterwards will have to wait until the inevitable divorce and subsequent running to the press for sympathy.
The joining together of military forces to defeat a common enemy has an equally long but often much more honourable history, with the allies of WWII being a prime example. Yes, there are frictions and the odd tiff here and there, but the prospect of being fragged tends to focus the mind on the job at hand rather than any minor differences.
It’s not all plain sailing though and forming a military coalition in the first place is the hard part. In 2002 an elected shaved chimp declared that his country would lead a “coalition of the willing” against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. This was an attempt to encourage countries not already declared for the coalition to either join him or be called some very unpleasant names. The offer to sign up was quickly accepted by such military powers as Panama and El Salvador in what some called a “coalition of the billing”. As with many coalitions money can form a rather smelly but at least temporary adhesive, but as Paul McCartney might say, we are back to marriage…