The German elections are over, and for those with an interest in Europe’s biggest democracy, attention will now move to who can form a government and what sort of coalition will be put together.

In recent years, Germany has been ruled by a coalition that included the two main parties, the equivalent of the Conservative and Labour parties working together in government.

Over the next few months, there will be talks between the parties that will probably involve the SPD, Greens and FDP forming a government. That would involve a government of the centre-left, greens, and a party that might be described as “classical liberal” believing in minimum intervention by the state in people’s lives and in the economy.

To our eyes, such a combination would seem unbelievable, but in Germany and, for that matter, any number of other western European states, it would be seen as perfectly normal.

READ MORE: Should we be surprised by Labour Plaid agreement?

In Westminster, parties are generally allergic to coalitions. We have after all an electoral system that tends to deliver a winner. It’s rare for a party to fail to win a majority of the seats.

It also means that governments are elected which most people didn’t vote for. This allows parties elected by a minority of people to run the UK as if they had the majority of the people behind them. In effect, it’s a system which prizes certainty above the views of the majority.

It can also lead to profoundly undemocratic outcomes; in 1951, the Labour Party won 48.8% of the vote, a figure unmatched by any other party since. Yet the Conservatives won more seats, forming the government. It’s a strange democracy which installs a government based solely on a party than came second in an election.

The other factor that affects thinking on coalitions in British politics is that, because of the electoral system, parties are themselves coalitions.

In other countries, the Tory and Labour parties might be spilt into five or six different parties. In my own, there is a range of opinion from those close to the philosophy of Marx to more centrist social democrats. In the Tories, there are those who are classical liberals like the FDP in Germany through to the wilder shores of the almost far right.

The ultimate coalition of convenience is probably Plaid Cymru as a party that is ultimately dedicated to one issue. Over the years the party has moved from the right to being a kind of liberal party under Gwynfor Evans to the position on the left of politics that it occupies today.

MORE OPINION: Labour and Plaid Cymru agreement can benefit people

In the Senedd, there exists a kind of hybrid electoral system which I know from personal experience makes it difficult to win a majority.

It still throws up situations where candidates roundly rejected by a constituency’s voters can still be elected as a “fastest loser” even when they don’t even come second, and many voters do find that strange.

Yet parties are often reluctant to talk about this. They believe that merely talking about the possibility of a coalition is a sign they accept that they can’t win outright, even though nobody has managed to do that. There is also the point, which has some force, that people cannot vote for a coalition  and so it is undemocratic to “pre-form” a coalition before people have voted.

Of all the parties in the Senedd the one that has been slowest to grasp this has been the Welsh Tories.

Now, you may think that I’m not perhaps an objective observer on this topic but I’m going to try. In 2007, Nick Bourne took the Welsh Conservatives to the door of government.

At that time, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru were willing to talk about forming a coalition with them. Fourteen years on and they are as far from power as they could possibly be.

MORE OPINION: How democracy can evolve in a Welsh context

Instead of building bridges they’ve run down a rabbit hole from where they can convince themselves they can win a majority in a Senedd election.

In trying to do so, they’ve tailored their appeal to devo-sceptics who at best make up about 30% of the population, and an ageing section at that. It’s effectively a policy of perpetual opposition and completely mystifying to me.

Over the next few years there will be further debate on the size of the Senedd, especially if Wales sees a 20% reduction in MP numbers, a hit greater than anywhere in the UK.

We might see a Senedd of 80 rather than 60.  At the moment there are some councils that have more members and the Northern Ireland Assembly has nearly twice the number of members with slightly more than half of our population.

The real debate will continue to be around how those members are elected. The fundamental question is how proportional the system should be, and parties tend to provide an answer on the basis of how favourable that answer is for their own prospects.

Fundamentally however, the culture of Welsh politics would have to change. I served in two coalitions and they worked very well. There is certainly much more dialogue between parties in Wales and a greater willingness to work across party boundaries where there is no disagreement.

Moving to a system that pretty much guarantees perpetual coalitions would take a greater shift. The unanswered question is whether parties are able to do that.

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.