'Jamaican’ Farewell: The Beginning of Merkel's End?
Mrs. Angela Merkel has been a towering leader in Germany for very many years and a combination of her calm, cool leadership along with her intuitive understanding of the German people has earned her the title 'Mutti’ or Mother.
However, her “worst victory” yet in the recent German elections might lead to the beginning of the end of Merkel's era. Mrs. Merkel's electoral performance was strongly undermined in the recent election by the rise of populist, eurosceptic parties like the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and controversial decisions like the refugee policy.
The most favourable option Mrs. Merkel had after this electoral debacle was to form a coalition government which now seems to be in jeopardy with earlier coalition talks grinding to a halt and the prospects of new such talks looking quite bleak.
The latest elections in Germany have led to a hung Bundestag. The Guardian reported that Mrs. Merkel's centre-right CDU/CSU combine received the largest vote share at 32.9% of the vote in the recent election, which was an 8.6% reduction in vote share from the previous election.
Mrs. Merkel requires a coalition to get to 50℅ of the the vote share to form a government. Preliminary coalition talks began with the Greens(which had 8.9% of votes) and the pro-business FDP(which had 10.7% of the votes).
It was hoped that a ‘Jamaica’ coalition (so called because the colours of the different parties were part of the Jamaican flag) would be hammered out. But these talks came to a standstill with Mr. Christian Lindner, the leader of the FDP, announcing that he would be breaking off talks due to the lack of a “common vision for the modernisation of the country” and of a “common basis of trust”.
The BBC reports that Mr. Schultz, the head of the centre-left SPD with which Mrs. Merkel had formed a “grand coalition” last election, has agreed to talks with CDU/CSU after much pressure.
However, another alliance with the centre-left SPD is full of many potential roadblocks. Firstly, the SPD has faced its greatest electoral loss in post-war Germany, receiving only 20.5% of the vote- a 5.2% decline from the previous election, after having been allied with CDU/CSU in the previous government.
Secondly, the CDU/CSU and the SPD have significantly different political agendas which will be difficult to resolve. The CDU/CSU wants to maintain sound finances in Germany, cut some taxes and invest in digital infrastructure whilst ensuring a tougher migrant policy.
In contrast, leading SPD figures have outlined conditions including investment in education and homes, changes in health insurance and no cap on asylum seekers. Lastly, members of the SPD are divided on the issue of another ‘grand coalition.’
For instance, the SPD premier of the state of Rhineland Palatinate, Malu Dreyer, said she preferred the idea of the SPD "tolerating" a minority government over a grand coalition, making clear that the party would not agree to a deal at any price.
Even if there is another coalition in place after long and arduous talks with the SPD, Mrs. Merkel will steal be greatly weakened as a Chancellor of Germany.
According to analysts, “the SPD has the stronger hand in the negotiations and is expected to have significant influence in any deal.” This is due to the fact that the SPD is the power-broker here and its refusal to ally with Mrs. Merkel will be of dire consequence to her whilst not being disadvantageous to the SPD.
So, Mrs. Merkel will still see a considerable reduction in her power and a decline in her position even if this highly difficult deal goes through.
The consequence of a no-deal situation with the SPD may mean another round of elections or a minority government. Mrs. Merkel may try and form a minority government, if all else fails, with support stitched vote by vote but such a government is liable to be even weaker and remarkably unstable.
A new election, on the other, will entail a rather long-drawn procedure. The German President would have to nominate a leader (in all likelihood Mrs. Merkel) who would have to lose two successive absolute majority votes and then a simple majority vote in the Bundestag for new elections to be triggered in 60 days.
This is a dreaded option for it brings uncertainty and instability, especially at a time when Mrs. Merkel's populist rivals are on the rise and her prospects at a new election look bleak.
Still, the BBC reports that Mrs. Merkel might pursue this option as she was "very sceptical" about a minority government and "new elections would be the better path"should talks with the SPD also go south.
As of now, Germany, which has been a pillar of stability in Europe, is in substantial political turmoil. The likelihood of a coalition government has severely diminished, the alternative of a minority government is unfeasible and the prospect of new elections seems unhelpful in solving the crisis, given polls predict largely similar results in a new election.
Nonetheless, one thing is certain — this is the beginning of the end for Mr. Helmut Kohl's protege-of-sorts.
Mrs. Merkel's “Jamaican farewell” might slowly but surely bring about her downfall and even if it does not happen soon it is quite certain it will happen in the not-so-far future.