It’s more-or-less back to the drawing board for German chancellor Angela Merkel her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party after talks to form a so-called Jamaica coalition collapsed this week.
While German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier is meeting separately with the leaders of the political parties in order to try to break the stalemate, many have been quick to declare a political end of days for Germany.
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However, the failure of talks between the CDU, Free Democratic Party (FDP), and the Greens actually represents a triumph for voters.
Writing for Der Spiegel, influential journalist Ullrich Fichtner said “the collapse of coalition negotiations in Berlin has saved the country from a government in stasis, a government with no vision or ambition.”
It is hard to disagree.
Having secured the largest share of the vote in September’s elections (32.9 percent), Merkel’s CDU party was invited to form a government, but being well short of a required majority needed to seek coalition partners.
The two she chose made for very strange bedfellows indeed and the failed talks have saved Germany from an uneasy marriage of parties thrown together for the sake of forming a government, any government.
Bundespräsident Steinmeier has been vocal in urging the parties to return to the negotiating table and for Steinmeier, the good of the German people is evidently best served by any government that avoids the need for a re-election, but why?
To be fair to Steinmeier, this thinking is deep-rooted and is part of the problem.
There is a belief that a fragmented vote means the electorate wants a coalition – a collection of parties with a range of views.
This is not the case. The Jamaica coalition (so-called because of the three parties’ colours – black, yellow and green) would see Christian Democrats, environmentalists, and the socially and economically liberal FDP try to rule together.
There isn’t much common ground there and they would likely prove obstacles to one another rather than help as partners.
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In short, effective rule would be very difficult.
By walking away from the talks, the FDP has unwittingly helped German democracy rather than cause a constitutional crisis.
Green voters did not head to the ballot boxes hoping for a coalition with the FDP, and CDU/CSU voters typically have little time for the Greens.
A coalition between these parties may form a government, but it certainly won’t please their voters.
Steinmeier’s attempts to broker further talks are fuelled by fears of further gains for the far-right AfD in any subsequent election.
Such fears are perfectly understandable, but an unwanted, awkward coalition that FDP vice chairman Wolfgang Kubicki described as “a relationship we know will end in a dirty divorce” would likely irk voters of the three parties involved, driving them elsewhere next time around.
At least some of this vote would likely go to the AfD, exacerbating the problem that Steinmeier wants to avoid.
The results of September’s elections show that Germany is a country crying out for a party with broad appeal and the politicians must take note.
The fact that no party achieved even 33 percent of the vote is clear proof that instead of embarking on coalition talks, the parties should be looking at how they can appeal to more people, thus avoiding the need for coalitions.
A fresh election is the best possible solution at this point and over 50 percent of Germans want one.