17 September 2013

Merkel Yes – But With Whom?

Bogdan Scurtu

German citizens will probably return Angela Merkel to the Chancellor’s office this coming Sunday. What is uncertain is with whom she will be able to form a coalition government.  Things have heated up and become more uncertain. A comfortable win for Merkel with another four years with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) is not assured after the recent election in the wealthy and conservative state of Bavaria.

Bavarian Results

CDU’s sister party in Bavaria, the CSU (Christian Social Union) won the state elections with 47,7% of the votes, which will give them 101 seats in the 187-seat Landtag (Bavaria is the only state in which Merkel’s party, the CDU, does not operate). The business friendly FDP, CDU/CSU’s coalition partner, received only 3,3% and thus not the 5% necessary to make it into the state legislature.

The euroskeptic Freie Wähler (Free Voters), an association of conservative independents, received 9% of the votes, the Greens 8,6%. However, Bavaria is a special case, and its election results cannot be taken as a sure indicator of what will happen next Sunday at the federal level.

Coalition Mathematics

The FDP has lately been losing in polls and elections, yet that could actually help them. Voters are now asked to give the FDP their Zweitstimme (second vote on the ballot – with which the voter can choose a party rather than a candidate).

Although all party leaders exclude a “grand coalition” between the CDU/CSU and SPD (Social Democratic Party) – this is not unthinkable anymore. Voters may favor it but a coalition with the CDU/CSU is a sensitive issue for the SPD, the main opposition party in Germany. The SPD has entered such a coalition twice in the past, in 1966 and 2005. In 2005, it caused an identity crisis in the SPD and a plummeting share of the votes from 38.4% in 2005 to 27.9% in the 2009 elections.

The Left (Die Linke, continuator of East Germany’s Soviet style socialists) is unlikely to be accepted by the SPD and the Greens for a left-of-center coalition.

Another newcomer, the euroskeptic AfD party (Alternative für Deutschland), is picking up votes on an anti-euro platform, and is getting closer to receiving the 5% minimum required to make it into the Bundestag. Although chancellor Merkel is very popular with the German voters, bailout programs for the Southern countries are not.

Finger Signs

BitteAnkreuzenBitte ankreuzen – Please check © Marian Kamensky Die Welt. source: © Wolf Schäfer

The latest election shock has come from the realm of … finger signs! Angela Merkel’s hand gesture has been a feature of the current political campaign. The Merkel-Raute (Merkel diamond) has made it onto walls and into campaign posters. Her opponent, Peer Steinbrück, raised eyebrows last week when he flipped the finger during a photo-shoot with the Süddeutsche Zeitung magazine. Although some voters were appalled, this did not stop his ascending trend in the latest opinion polls.

EuroPoint: With less than one-week left, the German federal election is getting interesting. But for Europe, the real question is not the election result, but the post-election coalition and its willingness to tackle the problems of the EU.

Copyright © GSJ & Author(s)