CDU advertising for SchrÃ¶derBeing stuck in a traffic jam is probably not the best place to be to blog about the German election. On the other hand, it may well be an excellent metaphor for the result of today’s German elections, which Mrs T sketched below. Hearing the results on the radio, the first thing I that sprang to mind was Goethe – “Here now I stand, poor fool, and see I’m just as wise as formerly.” Well, maybe not quite.
Of course this result is an expression of the socio-economic confusion Germany is experiencing. On the other hand, while the result of today’s election is some kind of hung parliament, the balance of power has shifted significantly – I not sure how many within the CDU read my post about their alleged screwing up on purpose.
So what’s happening now? There are four numerically possible options to form a coalition, only two of which are are least remotely politically conceivable: A grand-coalition, and a so-called “traffic-light” coaltion formed by the SPD, the F.D.P., and the Greens. While it is not entirely out of the realm of possibilities that the F.D.P. would form such a coalition (and that would be helpful from a civil rights point of view), even though the F.D.P.’s chairman just reiterated that there would not be such a coalition, this would change hardly anything with respect to the majorities in the upper chamber. So Germany’s political process would remain hung in the larger sense, given that the CDU would probably be even less interested to cooperate than before.
So what about the grand-coalition? It seems like the obvious choice now, should both major parties not be tempted to use the constitutional possibililties leading to another election in short term. I don’t think the “Volksparteien” will do that, simply because of the instability this would create – many people would lose faith in the German institutional framework. So my guess is, in order to avoid this loss of faith, there will be a grand coalition. But which one?
Here I would like to second Mrs T in stating that the vultures are already beginning to circle over Mrs Merkel. The fact that she is not even ruling out talking to the Greens about a possible coalition is probably indicative of her desperation. She claimed defensively that “she” had received the voters’ mandate to form a government. But it may not turn out that way.
Certainly, I’m going out on a limb here – while it is certainly customary and usually politically unavoidable because of Art. 65 of the German constitution, which states that the Chancellor determines the basic direction of the government’s politics, that the Chancellor belong to strongest coalition forming party, there is no obligation for that. Given that both parties gained such a similar amount of votes – the last numbers are 34.2% for the SPD and 35.0% for the CDU -, the fact that it is only difficult to deny SchrÃ¶der’s responsibility for the SPD’s revitalisation as well as Merkel’s (political) responsibility for her party’s recent weakness, and the fact that there are a significant number of people, certainly some state premiers, within the CDU who would like the prospect of being in government via their party and still have an SPD chancellor to run against in 4 years.
Obviously, Merkel will negotiate for the CDU. She will enter as a chancellor candidtate. But since today, it is no longer certain she will actually be elected as first female Chancellor. Maybe that role will remain open for some time.
Update (21:03): Schroeder just indicated on tv in a discussion with all party leaders that he’s thinking along the same way. Merkel’s reaction cannot really be described as overly surprised about this development. But the media will probably need some time to understand this *could* happen, as it would be “a historic first”, as a surprised television presenter noticed.