The Coalition Inside the Party

The Jamaican solution is now rapidly hurtling towards the plausibility horizon, as perhaps the most serious objection against it becomes blindingly clear. After all, the CDU-CSU is in itself a coalition of two parties. It’s usually in British politics that one speaks of a party being in itself a coalition, assuming as one does that proportional representation countries tend to make their coalitions explicit. But it remains true that political parties are rarely monolithic.

Down-blog, there’s been a discussion going about whether the CDU-CSU is really a single entity, a pair of political parties who share a parliamentary fraction, two political parties in coalition, or something else. Whatever it formally is, there are indubitably both CDU and CSU MPs. And that’s all you need for a potential inner-party politics. The CSU’s leader, Edmund Stoiber, is seriously not happy with the Jamaican option. Here, he tells the CSU faction in the Bavarian parliament (what, there are others? Who knew?) that “the contradictions between the interested parties are so great that such an alliance is not in sight”, and that the Greens “would have to reinvent themselves completely”. The Bavarian interior minister remarked that the CSU would have to swallow not just a frog but a giant toad to join such a coalition, and the minister of the economy pointed out all the policy disputes listed in my last post, and then some more. Not just the kerazy Bavarians said so – the Federal CDU’s deputy leader Christoph Böhr said that he could not imagine “throwing the heart of our manifesto into the wastepaper basket”. Damn, the metaphors are getting a hammering.

On the other hand, although Claudia Roth, one of the Greens’ multiple leaders, repeated that the FDP would have to do what Stoiber said the Greens would have to (she used exactly the same words) before they could join a traffic light coalition, her colleague and fellow-leader Reinhard Bütikofer signalled that the Greens were available for talks with both the CDU and the FDP. He also said that “his fantasy did not reach far enough” to visualise Angela Merkel becoming chancellor.

Meanwhile, on the Ampelkoalition front….

Losing the CSU would outweigh gaining the Greens, so that’s as good as a veto of the idea.

Franz Müntefering cranked up the pressure on the FDP, firing off a written invitation to join the government. Although Guido Westerwelle has since said he doesn’t want any more “love letters” and moaned about “sexual harassment” from the SPD, you have to wonder, seeing as the Greens will be talking to them. That could put the Greens in the position of honest broker between them. He’s also said that the SPD could camp outside the FDP headquarters but not persuade them…does anyone think he protests too much?

What he thinks, though, might turn out to be irrelevant. According to the FAZ, Westerwelle may be under threat. He wants to combine the leadership of party and fraction in his own person, but the fraction leader Wolfgang Gerhardt is resisting, claiming the support of the party in the south. And it appears to be him – Gerhardt – who is representing the FDP in the coalition talks. He hasn’t insulted Gerhard Schröder, either. Yet.

One little-noticed issue that favours the Jamaican solution, though, is the upper house. Made up of representatives from the Länder, it’s dominated by conservatives. Jamaica would get 43 of 69 votes. A Grand Coalition would have 36, a majority of one. A traffic light coalition would have a total of 4. That’s right – 4, the delegation from Kurt Beck’s social-liberal coalition in Rheinland Pfalz.

4 thoughts on “The Coalition Inside the Party

  1. “Seine Fantasie” no doubt in the original. You could probably go both ways (not that there’s anything wrong with that) in the translation.

    Nice tip on the composition of the Bundesrat, Alex.

    But y’know, who says it’s the Greens who have to change all of their positions on nukes, Turks, etc etc? Could just be the CSU. After all, the Greens got a bigger share of the national vote…

  2. Bundesrat politics combinatorics could get really tricky with a 3-party federal government. After all, one of them would in almost any state government coalition. Often, a member party might pressure the state government to at least on issues abstain that are dear to their heart.

    Moreover, state governments are quite zealous in defeneding their rights and their financial position. Even a federal grand coalition will have to apply some tough persuasion if it wants, say, an education bill passed. And a North German CDU government will not be happy about subsidies for ski lifts in Bavaria.

  3. [Wild unfounded speculation ON]

    Do you think that’s what (northern) Merkel might want – cast off the CSU and all the Catholic/statey baggage that goes with it, bring the CDU and FDP into lockstep as a market/liberal party, and extend out to the Greens? It’s one way of reorientating the Right to cope with reunification (my pet theory is of course that the CDU-CSU’s southern, Roman Catholic base is incompatible with a reunited Germany).

    [WES OFF]

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