On Sunday, November 19th, the FDP (Free Democratic Party) decided to back out of the Jamaica coalition talks – called “Jamaica” because the colors of the negotiating parties FDP, the Greens and the CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union) mirror those of the Jamaican flag. After the failed negotiations, there are now three possibilities for Germany to form a new government: A grand coalition between CDU/CSU and SPD, a minority government constituted only of the CDU/CSU, or reelections.
The reason for the FDP to drop the negotiations was, according to them, the parties’ inability to agree on controversial policies such as the abolition of the Solidaritätszuschlag – a tax surcharge that was initially introduced with the main goal of reducing costs of the German Unity.
While Angela Merkel said that a compromise was on its way, the FDP had a different opinion: “The outcome of the coalition talks was not a compromise that we could take responsibility for – it was not what we promised to our voters before the election. In this case, it is a question of responsibility to stand by what we said,” party head Christian Lindner said in an interview. His deputy Katja Suding agreed: “In the end, we could not enforce enough liberal concerns – a liberal influence was not visible.”
SPD Was Initially Not Willing To Negotiate – This Might Change Now
After the election, SPD’s party head Martin Schulz promised to take his party into opposition. However, after meeting with president Frank-Walter Steinmeier to discuss the proceeding after the failed Jamaica talks, he was more open to negotiations on possible government participation.
The most obvious form of coalition would be the grand coalition. Within the SPD, there are several people who argued in favor of this possibility – for example, foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel, or minister of justice Heiko Maas. However, the most important critic of the grand coalition is the SPD party base. Schulz also argued that the grand coalition lost almost 14 percent of the votes compared to the last election – hence this coalition does not have much voter support anymore.
Another possible coalition would be a minority government constituted of the SPD and the Greens. It is, however, very unlikely that the CDU/CSU – the strongest party – relinquishes participation in government and instead tolerates a minority government of two left-wing parties.
Several other possibilities for a government including the SPD have been discussed in the past days – for example a “Kenya-alliance” constituted of CDU/CSU, SPD and the Greens. But it is very unlikely that the CDU/CSU will enter a coalition with two left-wing parties.
Schulz has, in any case, announced that he will conduct an opinion poll among SPD party members before his party would enter any kind of coalition. As a prerequisite for such a poll, he must, however, develop a realistic idea of who to govern with.
Would A Minority Government Work for Germany?
Merkel was skeptical about a minority government constituted either of the CDU/ CSU alone or together with one small party. Unless the SPD is willing to participate in government, reelections would be the best possibility for the country, she said.
It is very difficult to govern a country with a minority government because, without a majority in parliament, there is a much greater chance of legislative proposals not being approved. In the case of a vote of no confidence, a minority government can be taken down much more easily than a majority government, hence a minority government would likely be unstable.
The only realistic possibility for a minority government would be one that is constituted only of the CDU/CSU. To make this happen, the party would have to make an agreement with the SPD, or alternatively, several other parties, in order to ensure that they would not block a CDU/CSU minority government. This form of agreement is being discussed within the SPD – for example, Ralf Stegner, one of the party’s deputy chairmen, is among those in favor of this solution.
If no coalition agreement is found in the next couple of weeks, reelections will be held. The results of a new election are expected to be similar to the ones from September. Chances are, however, that the Afd, Germany’s extreme right-wing party, could win even more votes. Until the formation of a new government, Angela Merkel and her cabinet are in charge of governing the country.
by Alina Birkel (Vienna, Austria)
Photo: Arno Mikkor