Political gambles often have unintended consequences

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A pedestrian walks past Brexit banners outside Parliament in London, Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. Politicians in Britain and the European Union seem to be looking to each other to break the Brexit deadlock.  Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

A pedestrian walks past Brexit banners outside Parliament in London, Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. Politicians in Britain and the European Union seem to be looking to each other to break the Brexit deadlock. Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Two recent events abroad demonstrate the Faustian bargains politicians make to maintain control of the government. One of these is how British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been antagonizing the Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP is a party from Northern Ireland that is currently supporting the Conservative government and keeping it from losing votes of no confidence. In Prime Minister Johnson’s attempts to implement the Brexit referendum, which was only placed on the ballot to woo members of the United Kingdom Independence Party, he risks alienating his political allies in Northern Ireland. The current Brexit deal violates a set of agreements known as the Good Friday Agreements, implemented  by the United Kingdom in response to the Troubles. The Troubles was a period of Irish history from 1960 to 1998, where the Protestants in Northern Ireland fought a civil war with Northern Irish Catholics over whether Northern Ireland should join the Republic of Ireland or remain part of the United Kingdom. The DUP, as a Unionist party from Northern Ireland with no desire to break the Good Friday agreements, has therefore decided to oppose the current Brexit agreement.  


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019.  Photo by Gali Tibbon/AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. Photo by Gali Tibbon/AP

The second demonstration of Westminster hardships is the April election of Benjamin Netanyahu. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has been tacking further right since 2009, was presented with a quandary in the April elections. The Yisrael Beitanu (roughly translated to Israel our home) secular right party was a necessary coalition party for Prime Minister Netanyahu, but he also needed the religious parties like United Torah Judaism and Shas. Shas, for those who do not follow Israeli politics is the party of Sephardic Spanish diaspora traditionalists. One of the concessions demanded by the head of Yisrael Beitanu, Avigdor Lieberman, was the ending of exemptions from the Tzahal, or Israeli Defense Force, for Orthodox Jews studying at yeshivas. This led to the current round of Israeli elections and Bibi, as Netanyahu is known, failing to form a government in the September elections as well. Although considering the historic tie of Netanyahu’s Likud party to the Sephardic and Mizrahi right, his actions were less shortsighted than those of Johnson or the canvassing of Blue and White, Likud’s major rival in this election, for the support of the Arab parties in the Knesset. Owing to certain statements such politicians have made in support of Hezbollah and Hamas, such an alliance would give Netanyahu ammunition to accuse his opponents of weakening the security of the country.

 This phenomenon of gambling politically on the support of single issue voters and non-moderate coalition partners is not restricted to Westminster parliamentary regimes; it also affects presidential regimes. However, since presidential regimes have fixed terms, the effects are only noticeable during midterm and primary elections. Owing to the nature of parliamentary regimes, the coalitions to create this Faustian choice of partisans with temporary power rather than more stable coalition building is more evident throughout the year. In a presidential system, such maneuvering still occurs, but unless one looks at platforms, it can evade detection more easily. This political gambling explains the fragility of the FDR coalition and the often referenced “Southern Strategy.” In parliamentary regimes, such coalitions are more transparent as the evidence consists not of politicians switching registration, but of demonstrating that a particular group now coalitions with a given party. Thus, in a parliamentary regime, one can point to how the Tories are coalitioning with UKIP as proof of a shift in their ideological partners to a right wing coalition. Such actions are a delicate game, as allying with the fringe, while aiding in forming electoral coalition, often alienates moderate sections of the electorate. These sections are more reliable to exist and don’t run the risk of competing for the same segment of the electorate. It is a foolish action by pragmatic politicians like Johnson, Kamala Harris, Gantz and Netanyahu to align themselves with the left or right and neglect liberals, a term meaning the middle class centrists, which fit more accurately their realpolitik approach to politics and their desire for power. If they have convictions, why are they not in that party already, instead of the centrist party of which they are running as a member? And if they are trying to cobble together a centrist coalition that also caters to the religious right and far left, why are they neglecting the liberals to pursue the elusive, energized left and right? Trying to please everyone rarely works and usually one part of the coalition manages to convince the party seeking their vote to grant them more concessions to the point that when those wings of the coalition fail to suffice, the pragmatic politicians fail to find coalition partners to preserve their government.

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Jacob Ningen is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at jacob.ningen@uconn.edu. 

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