Grand coalition under Schröder?

CDU advertising for Schröder
Being 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 Schröder’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.

8 thoughts on “Grand coalition under Schröder?

  1. Merkel is obviously spouting when she says she ‘received a governing mandate’. A so a schmarrn, ge. German parties, historically, almost never receive governing mandates. Even had CDU/CSU done far better today, Merkel would have had no mandate to govern and would have needed to find a coalition partner.

    In response to comments to posts farther below: Scott, yes, I’d be very surprised if FDP, for reasons of principle, refused to enter an Ampelkoalition, instead forcing a grand coalition in which they would by definition play no part, utterly wasting their astoundingly good result today. To be fair, I’d be surprised to see any party in their position refuse power in this way.

    And yes, it’s not saying much to label Merkel best of a bad lot. Thing is, she is better and much more interesting than the run of the Union. It’s Germany’s tragedy that she signed on to the CDU rather than the FDP, and that the FDP don’t poll 20-35% (and that, within the FDP, Guido and Gerhardt are in power, and Leuthäuser-Schnarrenberger no longer is). But one must work with the material one has.

    And Tobias has raised an extremely important point. We’ve all had our eyes on the Bundestag. Whatever government emerges from today’s results, the Bundesrat remains unchanged. Which means a great deal of stalemate. Control of the Bundesrat would have made a huge difference had Black/Yellow been able to form a government. But the Union failed misearably on that front today.

  2. But we should not forget that Schroeder did not get what he thought he will, so Joschka Fischer was right, Schroeder should have stayed one year more, maybe then the results would be different. It is going to be very difficult to form a coalition that can function…

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