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[FOUNTAIN]A vote for coalition politics

Jan 10,2003
The unvarnished truth is that the parliamentary system was never a popular form of government. Even former Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil, who actively advocated the parliamentary system, seems to have lost his passion for it. Yet witnessing German politics, one realizes that the system does have its virtues after all.

First of all, there are no lost votes in elections. In our last presidential election, the votes cast for candidates other than President-elect Roh Moo-hyun all became meaningless. More than half of all votes cast, more than the number that Mr. Roh won, became "dead" votes. Only the generosity of the winner can allow the political opinions of these "dead" votes to come alive in the country's policies. In Germany, on the other hand, any political party that wins more than 5 percent of the voters' support can represent the percentage of the population that voted for them.

It is also interesting that each voter gets to cast two votes. If a voter likes a certain candidate from Party A but likes Party B as a party in general, that voter can cast one direct vote for the candidate from Party A and one vote for Party B. Otto von Bismarck, who unified Germany, once said, "Politics is the art of possibilities." It is possible for yesterday's enemies to become today's allies in German politics. This is because of coalition politics. Coalitions can put a third party in power, but coalitions are the essence of parliamentary systems. In such systems, there is not a sense of "life or death" politics. This is because one never knows when one's enemies will turn into allies or allies become one's enemies.

The finest example of coalition governments is that of the left-wing and the right-wing parties. The first of such a coalition in Germany was when the Social Democratic Party and the Christian De-mocrats formed a coalition that governed West Germany from 1966 to 1969 during the country's first economic crisis since the end of the war. Coalitions are useful when a country needs a strong force to take it out of a crisis situation. Germany's experience should be an example for us. With rising concern over North Korea's nuclear program and the way things are faltering at home, a national consensus is needed more than ever.

If Mr. Roh shares his victory, the present crisis and increasing regionalism will go away and he will gain new stature.


by Yoo Jae-sik

The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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