Energy 21 November, 2017 2:00 pm   
COMMENTS: Mateusz Gibała

PISM: No “Jamaica” Coalition in Germany: What Next?

Discussions in Germany about the possibility of a coalition between the Christian Democrats (CDU), the Liberals (FDP), and the Greens persisted for several weeks. The mounting divergences have escalated in recent days and led to a breakdown in the talks. Germany is now faced with a choice of new negotiations between the political parties, a minority government, or new elections – writes Sebastian Płóciennik from the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM)

What are the reasons for the failure of the talks to form a government?

The potential coalition partners have a long list of different views on the economy, migration, energy, and the future of the euro area—actually totalling around 200 specific issues. At the last stage of the talks, the dispute over migration policy was decisive: the more restrictive approach of the Union and FDP was unacceptable to the Greens. The negotiations were broken off by the liberals, who feared repeating the mistake of 2009, when they took responsibility for a government programme that clashed with their traditional priorities. It was also a demonstration of the party’s strength. Leader Christian Lindner now can afford to say that “it is better not to rule than to rule badly,” and can even assume political responsibility for the end of the discussion about the so-called “Jamaica” coalition. His position in the FDP is undisputed. Such a luxury is beyond the reach of the Green leaders, CSU, or even Angela Merkel, whose authority will suffer a lot from the failure of the negotiations.

Could it come to new elections soon?

The way to such a decision is steep. The founders of the German constitution, bearing in mind the flaws of the political system of the early 1930s, created a mechanism conducive to the formation of the government and one that gives considerable prerogatives to the president, who must indicate, in accordance with Art. 63, a candidate for Chancellor. In case an absolute majority in the Bundestag is lacking, the political parties have 14 days to vote for their own candidate. If this avenue fails too, the Chancellor will be the person who receives the highest number of votes in the Bundestag who also has the support of the president. Only if the head of state does not decide on a nomination will, by his decision, new elections be called.

Is there another “grand coalition” on the horizon?

An alternative to the “Jamaica coalition” could be another “grand coalition” of CDU and the Christian Social Union (CSU) with the Social Democratic Party (SPD). The Social Democrats, though, stated promptly after the recent election that they are not going to enter any talks on such a coalition. Weakened by its electoral defeat, the party intends to devote its Bundestag term to the creation of a new programme and possibly some personnel changes. Another option then is a minority government of CDU/CSU and one of the smaller parties. It would diminish the risk of new elections, which for all mainstream parties would probably end up being worse than before, while support for more radical parties: Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Die Linke, would increase. In a campaign, they would loudly criticise the elites as “irresponsible” and depict them as too incompetent to form a government.

Would a minority government weaken Germany?

A government without a stable majority in the Bundestag would not mean instability, because the Chancellor can only be dismissed by constructive censure. But Germany’s ability to make important decisions would be weakened. In such a situation, it would be difficult, for example, to meet French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposals on reform of the euro area or to deal effectively with the growing number of economic challenges, such as rising public investment and the launch of reforms in the field of digitisation. In the event of a failure on these or other fronts, early elections may be inevitable. In such a scenario, Merkel’s era would end in the same way as Gerhard Schröder’s, after he asked the president in 2005 to shorten the parliamentary term and terminate his time as Chancellor.

Source: PISM