Will Angela Merkel Create a Grand Coalition?
Angela Merkel has cemented herself as a stout politician who has led the German Conservative Party to three successive victories in as many elections. Despite recording a staggering 41.5 % vote in the polls, this figure was not enough to win by a majority. Merkel will now be forced into a coalition with the closest voting rival the Social Democratic Party who themselves gained 192 seats versus Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its sister party which gained 311.
The thought of a coalition can make both the public and the politicians very uneasy. Developing a political relationship which isn’t tenuous and allows for effective decision making can prove very difficult, especially if the parties express somewhat polarized views. It has been mooted that a ‘grand coalition’ is very much on the cards, which would see the aforementioned parties join forces to have a substantial majority ruling. Sigmar Gabriel, chairman of the Social Democrats, has already expressed his reservations about entering a coalition with Merkel, primarily because of the way previous coalition partners have been left tainted by the experience or viewed in a different light by the public and faithful followers. The SPD recorded one if its worst poll results in 2009 after the end of Merkel’s previous ‘grand coalition’ with the SPD which existed from 2005-2009.
Gabriel made this statement.”It’s up to Merkel to tell us what she wants … we don’t want to be the next coalition partner driven into ruin by her.”
The real question is what coalition options remain accessible to Merkel and more importantly, are realistic. With the all the other parties being aligned to the left to varying degrees, Merkel may find that she will have to compromise on certain policies and effectively pick her battles. Other rumours suggest a ‘leftist’ coalition could emerge between the three other parties, the SPD, the Greens and the leftwing Die Linke. If they successfully combined forces, this new coalition could have a larger majority than Merkel’s party.
What Coalition Options are Available to Merkel?
Merkel has conceded that she will be reaching out to make a coalition agreement and doesn’t intend to fight an uphill struggle against all the left parties. The SPD are deemed as suitable coalition partners based on the previous ‘grand coalition’ and the fact that both parties reside closer to the centre politically than their counterparts. They agree in general about agendas such as Europe and maintaining a stable German government to help oversee the unstable EU zone, but they also differ in opinion on matters regarding work, employment and the minimum wage structure, in addition to immigration. The Green party have moved closer to the centre in recent years and their ideals regarding efficiency and environmentally friendliness, somewhat fall in line with Merkel’s long term aims for Germany, as fiscal policy is often driven by efficiency. They will however enter loggerheads on many other issues such as gay marriage, drugs, immigration and tax rates.
In the bigger picture, Europe will also have to determine how the inevitable victory of Merkel will affect the Eurozone as a whole. Germany clearly has the strongest economy, but they have almost become dictators of the ECB and have been heavily involved in the bailouts of many European nations including the conditions of the loans and the governance of austerity measures. It will be bad news for Italy, Spain and especially Greece, who have all voiced discontent at the measures of austerity inflicted upon their countries. It will be ironic if Merkel’s austerity measures and the increased power of the German right, inadvertently lead to the rise of the political extremist left in countries such as Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy.