The new governing coalition that took power Sunday in Israel is one of the oddest in recent memory: It unites ardent supporters of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and staunch advocates of an autonomous Palestinian state. Incorporating eight parties from across the political spectrum, the alliance includes factions with strong commitments to Orthodox Jews, others who believe government should be strictly secular, and, for the first time, an Arab Islamist party.

Although there are already questions about how such a diverse group of party leaders with such wildly different priorities will govern, Israel isn’t the only country where odd alliances have formed in recent years. In many parts of the world, “marriages of convenience” are a standard feature of electoral politics. As political parties cast aside old rivalries to seize power, numerous “odd couple” pairings have formed, some more successfully than others.


Bizarre political alliances have remained a feature of Tunisia’s democratic transition in the decade since the Arab Spring. For several years beginning in 2014, for instance, the moderate Islamist party Ennahda governed in a coalition with Nidaa Tounes, the late president Beji Caid Essebsi’s big-tent secularist party.

Ennahda, which has dominated electoral politics since the 2011 uprising, had previously been repressed by the North African country’s authoritarian governments. Many of its leaders had been jailed or exiled, and some died under torture. Essebsi, meanwhile, had been a fixture of Tunisian politics for decades before the revolution, holding high political posts under Tunisia’s former dictators. When he was elected president in 2014, he advocated “turning the page on the past.” Political figures associated with, or sympathetic to, the old dictatorships flocked to his party.

The unlikely alliance between Ennahda and Nidaa emerged during a particularly fraught period following high-profile political assassinations in 2013 that threatened to derail Tunisia’s democratic transition.

Tunisian politicians and analysts credit it for staving off a coup or civil conflict — and for preserving Tunisia’s status as the Arab Spring’s so-called success story. But critics have charged that the alliance prevented meaningful reform of the economy and of unjust systems that lingered from the dictatorship era.

These days, Tunisia’s government is supported by yet another strange partnership: between Ennahda, a more extreme Islamist party, and the party of a populist leader and media mogul. The political bickering and instability that have marked Tunisia’s fragmented political scene and the coalitions it produces are fueling the rise of a counterrevolutionary populist who stokes nostalgia for the dictatorship.


The coalition government that formed last year in Ireland was the first to unite two parties whose rivalry dates back nearly 100 years: Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

After Ireland became a self-governing republic in 1922, civil war broke out between factions that supported a treaty that meant it would remain part of the British Commonwealth, and those that wanted full independence. Fianna Fáil was born out of the anti-treaty movement, while Fine Gael traces its roots to the pro-treaty side. Both eventually evolved into centrist parties with fierce loyalties but few discernible policy differences.

For decades, the two parties took turns holding power, but political fragmentation and anger about rising inequality means that their dominance is no longer guaranteed. A record number of voters turned out to support the left-wing Sinn Féin party in 2020, and the splintering of the vote meant that no party emerged with a majority.

Ultimately, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil joined forces and banded together with the Green Party to form a governing coalition. “Today Civil War politics ends in our parliament,” Leo Varadkar, the leader of Fine Gael, declared when he announced the agreement.


When Austria’s governing coalition took shape last year, its agenda included both banning Muslim girls from wearing headscarves and a carbon tax on airplane tickets.

That’s because the coalition represents a marriage between the progressive, environmentally minded Green Party and the conservative People’s Party.

The “black-green alliance” formed in the aftermath of a corruption scandal that prompted the People’s Party to cut ties with the far-right Freedom Party, its former coalition partner, and led to the collapse of the government.

Given that the Green Party and the People’s Party are on opposite sides of the spectrum on key issues such as immigration, the move raised eyebrows. Some speculated that Sebastian Kurz, who leads the People’s Party, was hoping to rehabilitate his image, while others noted that he didn’t have many other choices for potential coalition partners.

By joining the coalition, the Green Party was able to get the government to adopt key policies such as a pledge to become carbon-neutral by 2040. But the People’s Party still heads most government ministries, including those overseeing immigration and the economy, while the Green Party has a much smaller portfolio and is primarily influential on environmental affairs.


One of the oddest coalitions to form in recent years was the Alliance for Serbia, which brought together eight opposition parties that ranged from left-wing syndicalists to far-right nationalists in 2018.

Although they had little else in common, all objected to the way that elections in Serbia were being run and agreed to boycott the 2020 election. The coalition argued that under the ruling SNS party, the democratic process lacked integrity, public officials were abusing their positions and public broadcasters were not treating all candidates fairly.

The alliance had hoped that its boycott would be noticed by the European Union and trigger reforms. Meanwhile, officials used the coronavirus pandemic to tighten electoral laws and make it even harder to get on the ballot. Ultimately, SNS received another landslide victory, but many Serbians thought that the results were illegitimate.

The Alliance for Serbia officially disbanded in August 2020, but has been replaced by an even larger catchall coalition, United Opposition of Serbia.