Three power-sharing options for British parties

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Britain's Conservatives and Liberal Democrats appeared Monday to be edging towards a power-sharing deal after the general election resulted in the first hung parliament since 1974.

The Conservatives won most seats in Thursday's vote and invited the third-placed Lib Dems to join them in talks on forming a power-sharing government.

Britain has limited experience of such governments, but similar situations in other European countries and elsewhere suggests there are three broad models which the two parties could follow:


- A handful of posts for Lib Dem ministers in a Conservative-dominated cabinet.

- Joint legislative agenda underpinned by complicated arrangements for resolving disputes, sharing information and shaping policy.

- Conservative leader David Cameron becomes prime minister, wins support to serve for a full parliamentary term.

- Cameron and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg have to deal with sniping from respective party memberships for compromising on manifesto pledges.

- Lib Dems could achieve long-cherished electoral reform, but at the price of losing their distinctive identity.

Prospects: potentially the most stable option but as the junior partner the Lib Dems risk sacrificing their independence.


- A technical term for an arrangement that gives a few ministerial posts to the Lib Dems, although collective responsibility is restricted to the agreed programmes in those portfolios.

- Some Lib Dem policies included in the Queen's Speech to parliament which sets out the government's intentions.

- Broad agreement on contents of first budget.

- In-built option to "agree to disagree".

- Limited progress on electoral reform but short of Lib Dem demands.

Prospects: Weaker than a full coalition and more likely to collapse, possibly leading to snap election this year.


- Lib Dems win some concessions to their policy in new government's first Queen's Speech.

- Conservatives will decide spending cuts in Budget, although Lib Dems given opportunity to provide input.

- Clegg wins no major concessions on electoral reform.

Prospects: Weakest of the three options but allows Lib Dems to remain as opposition party with power to influence government policy

If the Tories and Lib Dems fail to agree on any of these three options, other alternatives include a Conservative minority government, and a pact between the Lib Dems and Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour party, along with a number of other smaller parties.

© 2010 AFP

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