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German “Jamaica” Coalition Talks End Abruptly

Wigan Salazar
, Mon, 11/20/2017

Now that negotiations for an historic “Jamaica” coalition between Angela Merkel’s CDU/ CSU parties, the liberal FDP and the Green Party ended abruptly on Sunday night, MSL’s Wigan Salazar reviews what may happen next regarding a new German government.

  • FDP’s last-minute exit from coalition talks takes CDU/ CSU and Green parties by surprise
  • Few options exist for Merkel to form a new government
  • Acting government remains in place
  • Decision on next steps, including a new election, may lie with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Negotiations for an historic “Jamaica” coalition between Angela Merkel’s CDU/ CSU parties, the liberal FDP and the Green Party ended abruptly on Sunday night after FDP Chairman Christian Lindner announced that his party was no longer willing to enter a possible coalition. Before this announcement, it had been widely expected that an agreement would be reached during the night. The involved parties had negotiated for several weeks and had articulated differing views especially on immigration, climate and fiscal policy. According to several sources close to the talks, negotiators were closing in on a breakthrough regarding these questions.

Acting government remains in place

Angela Merkel remains acting chancellor; her current cabinet consisting of members from the old grand coalition of CDU/ CSU and SPD remains at the helm. Germany remains represented at an international level; the government retains its executive powers. However, new legislative initiatives are currently not possible as no government majority has been negotiated.

Grand coalition or elections: What will happen next?

What will happen next is far from clear. Snap elections are out of the question: The German constitution places high hurdles for parliament to be dissolved and new elections to be called. A key responsibility now falls to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. If no new option for a potential government arises – the only potential solutions being a restart for Jamaica or a new grand coalition between CDU/ CSU and SPD – it will be the president’s turn to initiate the next steps. Since both Jamaica and a grand coalition currently seem out of reach, it is highly probable that Steinmeier will be forced to act.  Based on German constitutional law, new elections cannot be called before an effort to elect a new chancellor has been made. The first option is a minority government, the other a new election round. Since Germany has no experience with minority governments and the electorate favours governments that command stable majorities, it seems highly probable that a new election round will be called. However, the situation still remains very fluid, with commentators and politicians calling for CDU/ CSU and SPD to form a stable government.

Political fallout: The blame game has begun

Whether new elections will take place or not, the political fallout of the FDP’s decision to pull out of the talks is considerable. The blame game on who shoulders the main responsibility has already begun, and it is fair to say that the FDP will bear a major share of the public blame. However, all actors have been dealt a severe blow: Chancellor Angela Merkel may face a challenge to her authority, although her CDU party is known to be very reluctant when it comes to palace revolutions. Many analysts state that her final phase as a chancellor has begun – but whether this means she will remain for 6 months or 4 years is still unclear. Merkel’s counterpart, CSU chairman Horst Seehofer, is already in a power struggle within his party. The Green party’s top negotiators, Katrin Göring-Eckardt and Cem Özdemir face a party conference at which they may face harsh criticism for having been so flexible regarding compromises in the fields of climate and immigration.

Elections in 2018?

Since a new election round is now a distinct possibility, it is worth having a quick look at how this may play out. The most recent opinion polls do not vary too much from the September election result, which would mean that, by and large, the same coalition options we have today will be on the table. However, the new situation may kick off a new dynamic. The FDP seems to be banking on gaining new voters by having shown resolve in the coalition talks. Other lines of thought see the Green Party soaring, or the CDU/ CSU notching up a couple of points as German voters seek stability. Additionally, the spectre of the right-populist AfD further rising in the polls seems plausible. But these are all speculations, although voiced by respected analysts. The bottom line is that the next opinion polls will offer an early glimpse of the results we might expect from a new election.

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