How did German politics get so messy? Chancellor Angela Merkel was supposed to be Europe’s “steady hand”. Election observers thought she was almost guaranteed to win; she was supposed to be the classic, comfortable option that German voters would support.
The myth will need to be revisited. Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party did indeed emerge victorious in the Bundestag elections, yet she has so far been unable to form a government. German politics demands coalitions, and seemingly nobody is willing to work with Merkel. Whenever parties have gone into coalition with her in the past they have invariably been punished at the polls.
After a bruising at the ballot box, Martin Schulz’ Social Democratic Party (SPD) initially rejected another “grand coalition”. Attention then turned to a green-black-yellow “Jamaica” coalition (so-named because of the colours of the Jamaican flag) between the CDU, the Greens, and the liberal FDP. However, those talks broke down when the liberals walked out (having previously been burned after governing with Merkel). What happens next?
- Option 1: Grand Coalition. Despite the social democrats publicly rejecting the idea, it’s gained new ground recently. Mathematically, such a coalition would be possible. Politically? Even a week ago, it seemed unlikely. However, public opinion seems to be moving in favour of such a deal. “Exploratory” talks between the CDU and SPD are ongoing.
Option 2: New elections. The radical left Die Linke party has already demanded new elections. That would only be possible if no candidate for chancellor can cobble together a working solution. Then the German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, can dissolve the Bundestag and call new elections. The new Bundestag would then have to be re-elected within 60 days. However, recent polls suggest that new elections would not necessarily deliver new results.
Option 3: Minority Government. This would be a novelty for German politics, but not a very stable model. A government made up of the CDU and the FDP, or the CDU and the Greens, would have to work with opposition parties in order to win every single vote in the Bundestag. For this option to be viable, a chancellor would first have to achieve a simple majority of votes in their favour in the Bundestag and be confirmed by President Steinmeier.
Can Merkel fix Germany’s political chaos? None of the available options seem particularly stable, but ultimately one will have to be chosen. What happens next? Should there be new German elections in 2018? Should there be another “grand coalition”? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!