Discussion and Analysis by Grace Gliksten
The prolonged struggle for Angela Merkel to form a government under her leadership collapsed last night. Christian Linder, leader of the centrist Free Democrats Party, the FDP, announced just before midnight that the party was pulling out of talks with Merkel’s conservative alliance. He said that the parties had been unable to see past their differences on policy and had been unable to develop “a basis for trust and a shared idea.” He later said “it is better not to govern than to govern badly.” Merkel, and the other party leaders, however, claimed that a coalition deal would have been possible, insinuating that the FDP was responsible for the breakdown in talks.
The deadlock marks a break away from the vision of political stability and certainty that Germany prides itself on. Negotiations, which became increasingly acrimonious, faltered on a number of different issues. Merkel’s divisive immigration policy caused friction within talks, with the current liberal refugee policy at odds with the more conservative ideals from the FDP. One million asylum seekers have been let into Germany since 2015 by Merkel’s policies, which has incited criticism and has pushed voters towards the far-right Alternative for Germany Party. Although the FDP wants to maintain Germany’s open borders, this is only to control the inflow of migrants. The parties were also at loggerheads when it came to environmental policies, with the Green Party wanting to phase out the use of coal and combustion engines, while the FDP emphasised the need to protect such industries and jobs.
Europe’s largest economy is now set to face an unprecedented political crisis amongst the increasing prospect of new elections. Following disappointing election results in September, the anticipated coalition was Merkel’s last and only shot at forming a new, majority government. The Social Democratic Party, SPD, Germany’s second largest political party, has ruled out joining Merkel again for another coalition government. Following the September election, one senior SPD figure, Thomas Opperman, said that a coalition would only be possible if Merkel were to step down, highlighting the risk to Merkel’s position that the breakdown has created. Merkel’s last option is to form a minority government with the Green Party, however, she has indicated that she is opposed to this due to the instability it would cause. Similarly, individuals have criticised the idea with Thomas Kreuzer, one of the negotiators in the coalition talks, saying that a minority government would lack the authority both Germany and the EU need at the present time. The SPD have also said that they would not “tolerate” a Merkel-led minority government.
The breakdown in talks has also put Europe’s longest serving leader in trouble, as it is not certain that Merkel’s party will want her to lead them into a new campaign. It is likely debate will now focus on Merkel herself, and whether she commands enough power and influence to continue to hold together a strong government. Top selling German newspaper, Bild Daily, said the failure to forge an alliance, nicknamed the “Jamaica coalition” due to the parties colours matching those of the Jamaican flag, put “her chancellorship in danger.” In similar vein, a poll by Welt Online found that 61.4% of people surveyed claimed that the collapse of talks would call an end to Merkel as chancellor.
The Euro took a tumble following the announcement, trading 0.5% lower against the US Dollar and taking the Euro to its lowest level in four days. The Euro was also down 0.6% against the Japanese Yen, to a two-month low, and was down 0.43% against the Pound, trading at 1.125.