Formation Talks Failed – What’s Next? Posted by Sten on Nov 21, 2017 in Culture, Current Events
Germany held elections earlier this year. Four parties came out on top and started talks to form a coalition to govern with a majority. However, just last weekend, those talks were ended – unprecedented in the quite stable political climate of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany). So, let’s have a closer look and scoop up some vocabulary on the way!
How do elections work?
About two months ago, at the end of September, the results of the Bundestagswahl (Parliamentary Elections) were announced. From the elected parties, a Regierung has to be formed. Since there are many different Parteien (parties), it is unlikely that one party will come out on top with a Mehrheit (majority) of the Stimmen (votes), and therefore with a Mehrheit of total Abgeordnete (representatives) in the Bundestag (Germany’s Second Parliamentary Chamber).
CDU/CSU, the right-centered party came out on top. Their color is black, so they are also called Schwarz or die Schwarzen. Since it is a union of the party CDU, spread throughout Germany, and the party CSU, represented only in Bayern (Bavaria), CDU/CSU is also known as die Union (the Union), or just Union. The CDU is also the party of Bundeskanzlerin (Federal Chancellor) Angela Merkel.
The second largest party was SPD, the social-democratic party in Germany, typically left-centered. They are also called die Roten (the reds), because their color is red. Traditionally, it has been the worker’s party. Their new Spitzenkandidat (“top candidate”, front runner) was Martin Schulz, who had been president of the European Parliament for a long time. The SPD had not done very well in recent years, and Schulz entering the Kampagne (campaign) led to many new members, also young people. However, it was not enough to win, and they became the second largest party.
These two large parties were followed by four smaller parties: Die Linke (The Left, purple), Die Grünen (The Greens, green), FDP (The Liberals, yellow) and AfD (Alternative for Germany, blue). Of these four parties, Die Linke leans most left, AfD most right, and the Grünen are a bit more left than the SPD, while the FDP is a bit more right than the Union.
Forming the Koalition
Well, in order to have an effective Regierung, you want a Mehrheit (majority). This is why parties work together in a Koalition (coalition). They write up a Koalitionsvertrag (coalition agreement), which contains compromises on the goals agreed upon by the parties in the Koalition. Of course, it is easier to make a Koalition with a party that shares many viewpoints with your own party, and this is why an often seen Koalition in Germany is between Union and SPD. Just those two parties usually hold more than 50% of the Stimmen (votes), and so that is quite feasible. In fact, the current Bundesregierung (Federal Government) is made up of a coalition between Union/SPD. Such a Koalition between the two parties with the strongest Mandat (mandate) is also known as the Große Koalition (Great Coalition), or short: GroKo.
However, after the Ergebnis of the Bundestagswahl was announced, the strongest party, the CDU, has to form a Koalition. Since Angela Merkel is the leader of the CDU, she is in charge of forming the Koalition. Since CDU and CSU practically work together, they are always part of the same Koalition, however they also make compromises between each other in the Koalitionsvertrag.
The SPD announced that it wanted to be Oppositionsführer (opposition leader), and so did not want to participate in the Sondierungen (“explorative” talks between the Parteien interested in a Koalition).
So what could Merkel do? The AfD is too far right, it is not considered a feasible partner in a Regierung. Die Linke is similarly too far on the left. So the rather moderate Grünen and FDP are left.
And that is how the Sondierungen between Schwarz, Grün and Gelb (yellow) started. Because of the colors of these three (technically four – CDU/CSU, Greens, FDP) parties, such a Koalition is also called Jamaika-Koalition (Jamaica Coalition), because they are the same colors as the Jamaican flag. They could form a Mehrheit together.
It is actually quite interesting to figure out different possible party constellations for a Koalition. Check out this website that allows you to put different ones together.
So what happened?
Something unprecedented: The Sondierungen failed on Sunday. The FDP under Parteiführer (party leader) Christian Lindner pulled the plug. They felt a lack of Vertrauen (trust) toward the other three parties.
That a Koalition could not be formed is completely new ground in the otherwise rather stable German political landscape. So what’s next?
Different possibilities and consequences are put forward. Is it the politisches Aus (political end) for Angela Merkel, who failed to bring the Parteien together? Does it mean that the SPD has to turn around and do consider a Koalition? Or will the FDP come around? Does a Minderheitsregierung (minority government) work? Or does it mean… Neuwahlen (new elections)?
By some, Merkel is held verantwortlich (responsible) for the failure. She already stated that she wants to try and still make it happen, and she would like to run again, it seems, if Neuwahlen would happen. She also prefers Neuwahlen over a Minderheitsregierung. However, she has been at the helm of Germany since 2005. It could well be that the CDU/CSU wants a fresh wind.
The SPD reacted and said that they are willing to talk, but have not changed their mind on being in the Opposition. Schulz did say that they think Neuwahlen would be a good idea. They feel like they did not get the Mandat from the people to govern.
Neuwahlen are a serious possibility. Die Linke, AfD, SPD and even Merkel do not think that it is a bad idea. However, it would take Monate (months) before those could be organized. It also means that all Parteien would have to return to the campaign trail, which can all be quite disruptive for German Politik (politics) and its Wirtschaft (economy).
Whatever happens, it is an interesting time to follow German news and politics!