Unsteady atmosphere of current German politics

The climate of politics in Germany has recently taken a turn for the unexpected, as coalition talks among Angela Merkel’s Conservative Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union, the Free Democrats, and the Greens have reached a point near complete breakdown. Election results in late September were not unanticipated, but they were a blow to both the CDU and center-left Social Democratic Party, a party that emphasizes progressive social policies and proliferation of the welfare state. The two parties experienced their worst performances in decades, despite retaining first and second place. The right-wing Eurosceptic Alternative for Deutschland party had a large swell in their share of the vote, going from zero seats in 2013 after failing to reach the required five per cent vote threshold, to 94 seats on election day, surging ahead to third place. Post-election, a “Jamaican” coalition was the plan, putting the CDU/CSU, FDP, and the Greens together. It was coined with the term “Jamaican” due to the party colours being black, yellow, and green. However, the leader of the Free Democrats, Christian Linder “abruptly broke off talks,” according to an article from the National Post, after citing they would detract too much from their principles. Professor Alexander Reisenbichler, who teaches Western European Politics and the E.U. at UTM, comments: “The situation is not a deep political crisis, but presents some unforeseen challenges. It is still possible for the mainstream parties to come together and work out these challenges before holding new elections.” Indeed, there is still the SPD to consider forming a coalition with, if talks do not return to normal with the current party options. In a recent development, Martin Schulz, the leader of the SPD, will allow party members to poll on whether they will want a grand coalition with the CDU, since talks with other parties have stalled. Previously, Schulz was steadfast against an idea of a second grand coalition with the CDU, since their election results were disappointing to say the least. However, the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmer, invites Merkel, Schulz, and the leader of the CSU for joint talks to see if a coalition between them is possible.

Notwithstanding all this, the possibility of a new election hangs in the balance between the parties that were first consulted for coalition talks, and whether the SPD wishes to combine forces and form a government. Developments surrounding the current political climate in Germany are always on the move at this point, so the end result of this impassé is yet to be seen. On a positive note, professor Reisenbichler also remarks, “The German public rewards consensus and responsibility over confrontational style of politics,” something that has arisen as a distinct phenomenon with parties butting heads over contentious issues, such as the recent migration crisis from the Middle East following the war in Syria and the role of the E.U. As we head into December, it is still unknown what the new year will bring: a stable majority coalition government, or a nation going to the polls again within several months of a previous election.

 

JOSEPH CORAZZA
4th year political science student