The German Political crisis and what you need to know.
The German political crisis: what you need to know
November has been a tough month for Germany. The country has been plunged into a political crisis which gets everyone talking about it in the European media.
Angela Merkel has just been reelected for a fourth mandate a little more than one month ago and didn’t succeed yet to form a new government. European politicians from all political sides fear this event. It could put the whole Europe into a global political crisis. A protection wall just fell and for the first time, the great Chancellor Merkel failed. After all this time of power, is she now facing the beginning of her decline?
One month after her reelection, Angela Merkel acknowledged on the 19th of November the failure of the negotiations aiming to form a new coalition. Commonly referred the « Jamaican coalition », because of the three party’s colors, it was supposed to combine liberals of the FDP, conservatives of the CDU and CSU, and members of the Green party. It’s the first time since 1949 that Germany doesn’t have any majority to govern: that’s what we can call it a deep political crisis.
In the aftermath of the announcement of the failure, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called all the parties to resume negotiations. « I expect from all the parties to make themselves available to dialogue together, in order to form a new government as soon as possible » he said.
If the President wants, he is able to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies, but he refused to do it yet. He’s now calling Merkel to retry finding a deal between all the parties in order to form the new coalition, before summoning new elections.
A word about the German political system
Let’s focus on the German system for a bit to understand more about this political crisis. It’s a parliamentary system where the Head of State, the Federal President is elected by the federal assembly and is in charge for 5 years. Currently the President is Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has been elected on February 2017.
But the one who truly assumes executive power is the Chancellor. He has to set the German politics’ strategic directions. The conservative Angela Merkel has been in charge since 2005. She’s responsible in front of the « Bundenstag », which assumes the main legislative power with its 598 or more Deputies.
Angela Merkel, a Chancellor on borrowed time
The famous Angela Merkel has been elected to be the German Chancellor for the 4th time already. After 12 years at this position, she chose again to run for election in November 2016 after a long consideration. She even said that the 2017 campaign would be the hardest since German reunification in 1990. One year to the day she decided that, she’s back in front of cameras to acknowledge her failure to govern.
Even though it’s not the first political storm for Ms. Merkel, her retirement has already been announced. In the autumn of 2016, the Chancellor had been hardly weaken by the refuges crisis and by the historical Conservative’s recent defeat at the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern elections. The far right party, AFD, won the Merkel’s stronghold. She gets over the defeat as always, by taking advantage of fears stirred up from the Brexit and Trump’s election.
But today the situation is different. Merkel has not trouble with the AFD and her political enemies but trouble with her own troops. Some people within the CDU hold her accountable for the party’s all-time low score at the legislative elections. A lot of questions are coming through German people’s mind. If Merkel is not able anymore to make CDU progress in the polls and if she lost her legendary negotiating power…
Does it mean that she has her retirement?
How is she going to do in case of Federal President Steinmeier decides organizing new elections?
Angela Merkel recently announced that she would run again for the elections if there is a new ballot. But who will be her partner to govern?
She has been refusing to work neither with Die Linke (radical left party) nor with AFD (far right). It only remains the SPD (social-democrat), but this time it’s the party who doesn’t want to form a coalition with Conservatives.
In addition, recent events didn’t help the Chancellor to strengthen her authority with her owns. At mid-September, “Die Welt” (German Newspaper) asked to its readers if they would be happy in case of Merkel stayed after negotiations failed, and 61% said « no ».
A really bad time for Angela Merkel…
The crisis’ sore points
But why can’t they get along?
After one long month of negotiations, Conservatives, Liberals and Greens could only agree on some subjects. Other issues, more important, cannot reconcile them yet.
On the one hand, they agree on keeping a balanced budget, modernizing Internet infrastructures and increasing family benefits.
But on the other hand, they disagree on:
• The refugees’ issue: Greens would like to welcome more refugees and remove the 2016 law, preventing refugees from bringing their family to Germany until March 2018. However Conservatives fight for extending this ban as long as possible because they remain so skeptical about Merkel’s 2015 decision of opening the barriers.
• Energy transition: All the far from finding an agreement for reducing CO2 emissions. Greens estimate that it’s necessary to reduce them by 90 millions of tons, at least, while Conservatives and Liberals think that a reduction of 32 million would be enough.
• Tax law and Europe: Liberals claim for tax cuts, especially the solidarity tax which helps disadvantaged regions of former GDR, while Conservatives would like to remove it step by step and Greens keep it entirely. Liberals and Greens one again disagree on what to answer to the French President Emmanuel Macron, who calls EU members to create a European budget and to reduce the amount of the European rescue fund. Finally, Liberals reject the idea of helping the countries which « plunged themselves into desperate situations », like Greece.
• Education: Liberals want to give education more importance by calling for a reform in the education sector.
What impact on Europe and its economy?
All these disagreements definitely have a negative impact on Europe. And yes, the whole Union is going to suffer from the German political crisis. The recent failure to form a new coalition weaken the overall European project. Even though this project just began to recover after ten years of constant crisis.
The Union had to successively go trough the Euro and debt crisis, the refugees’ crisis, all the terrorist attacks from ISIS, and finally the Brexit. All these events led to the rise of populism and nationalism, and totally disrupted the European political landscape. However, recent electoral victories of centrist and pro-European parties in Austria, France, and the Netherlands had revived the European venture.
From an economical point of view, Germany is the economical leader of the European Union, it shows the path. There are currently no short terms consequences to fear. The German economy relies on strong pillars (industry, services, retail goods…) and enjoy a well-known reputation of European example.
However, over the median term and if no political alliances are found, Germany could face serious doubt and uncertainty about its economic viability. Germany represents the biggest GDP in the EU, the biggest exporter, the first commercial partner of France… The list of titles is long and shows us how much connected is the German economy. Trouble in Germany represents trouble for the EU.
When Macron had been elected in France, Berlin applauded and began dreaming about the new Franco-German duo: the possibilities seemed to be endless.
The first shock appeared just after German legislative elections of September when Angela Merkel has been a lot weakened: less than 65 seats for her party and a thrilling arrival from the far right (12,6%).
The second shock, way more grave, occurred when she didn’t succeed to form a new governmental coalition. If her legendary negotiating talent had worked, she would save Germany from a deep political crisis. Unfortunately, it didn’t work like a charm…
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Written by Eva Bellet│ Independent Geopolitical Analyst
Edited and Corrected
by Vee Venski
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