Imagine my surprise, just two days ago, when I was having lunch with a Canadian friend and he tells me, "The Canadian government is set fall this week." Excuse me? There was a little media attention given to the scandal the ruling Liberal party suffered a few months ago, but they seemed to weather the storm with little damage.
Of course, not 24 hours later, CNN was announcing that scandal had toppled the Canadian government. As with the situation in Germany, I find myself in the interesting position of trying to understand a notable event in a country whose politics I am woefully ignorant.
To understand the details of Canadian politics, a good place to start is Captain's Quarters Blog, where Ed has commented on the fall of the government here and here. In the second post, I learned that Canadian politics are much like U.S. politics in one way--contradicting and biased polls. The commentary suggests that the lead in popularity the Liberals have enjoyed for many years is shrinking; time will tell if this analysis is correct.
One detail that I cannot find in articles about the event is something my friend mentioned to me. Because of the no confidence vote, a general election will be held, likely near the end of January. If the Conservatives win a plurality, they will of course be asked form a new government (partnering with a minority party). But there is a tradition that if a party looses a no confidence vote and then fails to get a majority in the subsequent election, then the party with the second most votes is asked to form the government. Thus, if the Liberal party gets a plurality but not a majority in the January elections, the Conservatives will still be asked to form the government.
I have yet to verify how binding this tradition is. As of yet, I have been unable to find any mention of it in mainstream media news articles or blogs. It would seem an important point, so I would expect to read more about it. In any event, the whole system makes the Electoral College seem simple, at least to this American.