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27/09/2009 | Germany’s election- Coalitions of the willing (What to watch for in Germany's federal election)

The Economist Staff

POLITICIANS are said to campaign in poetry and govern in prose but the candidates contesting Germany’s federal election uttered barely anything of interest. The two main contenders, Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Germany's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), have spent the past four years together in a “grand coalition”. Since they may have to do so again they could not afford to savage each other.

 

On Sunday September 27th voters will probably ensure that Ms Merkel’s CDU finish well ahead of the SPD—opinion polls are unanimous on the score—allowing her to remain as chancellor. The election’s aftermath is likely to be more interesting than the campaign.

The main question is whether Ms Merkel will get her wish to dispense with the SPD as a coalition partner and govern instead with the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP). That has looked to be the likeliest outcome for most of the year: polls have consistently forecast a small majority for a “black-yellow” coalition in the Bundestag. But Mr Steinmeier, contesting his first election, has recently been gaining ground. That makes it more likely that Ms Merkel will be forced to continue the grand coalition with the “red” SPD.

Yet in a Bundestag with five parties other coalitions are possible. The SPD says it will not govern with the ex-communist Left Party. So Mr Steinmeier’s main hope for becoming chancellor would be to lead a “traffic light” coalition of the SPD, the FDP and the Greens. If black-yellow does not achieve a majority Ms Merkel could in theory top it up by recruiting the Green party to form a “Jamaica coalition” (named for the colours of the Jamaican flag). Yet all possible three-party combinations have been ruled out by one of their prospective members: the Greens reject Jamaica and the FDP says no to the traffic light. A would-be chancellor would have the difficult task of trying to change one party’s mind.

For Mr Steinmeier one important goal is to save the SPD from what could be its worst result in modern history. In 1953 it won just 28.8% of the vote. If it falls much below that the SPD’s powerful left wing may eventually rebel against the party’s moderate leaders, even if it returns to power as the junior partner in a grand coalition. The SPD’s position in any case is likely to be weakened. As in 2005 there is speculation that a grand coalition might not last the full four years of the next parliament. Ms Merkel will not be comfortable unless the CDU exceeds the 35.2% of the vote it reached (along with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union) in 2005. If a weak CDU is yoked to the SPD again, she too will face restlessness in the ranks.

Under Germany’s system of proportional representation the balance of power in the Bundestag is supposed to depend on each party’s share of the vote. But a quirk in the system could deliver as many as 20 extra “overhang seats” to the CDU, allowing it to form a black-yellow government even if the two parties do not win a majority of the votes that go to the five parties. The constitutional court has demanded changes to the system, but not until 2011. Opposition leaders have already given warning that a government formed on the basis of overhang seats would be “unconstitutional”.

Whatever the result, the next government will not be formed until a coalition hammers out an agreement among its constituent parties, a process that could take weeks. That is when differences will have to be reconciled and the mush of campaign promises shaped into a governing programme. Only then will voters have a real idea of where their leaders intend to lead Germany over the next four years. In any case the next government’s choices will be limited by Germany’s consensus-seeking habits and the government’s tight finances. A black-yellow coalition would try to cut taxes and simplify the tax code and may attempt reforms, for example of health and nursing-care insurance. In a reconstituted grand coalition the parties would be torn between their need to sharpen their political identities and the necessity to compromise. That is likely to produce an unambitious government at best.

The Economist (Reino Unido)

 



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18/07/2009|
27/03/2009|
22/03/2009|
22/03/2009|
27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
27/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
17/01/2009|
11/01/2009|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
06/12/2008|
23/11/2008|
23/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
16/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
04/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
03/11/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
24/10/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
15/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
06/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
05/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
01/09/2008|
22/08/2008|
22/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
17/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
16/08/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
28/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
19/07/2008|
24/05/2008|
24/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
03/05/2008|
29/04/2008|
11/02/2008|
05/01/2008|
09/12/2007|
18/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
10/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/11/2007|
06/09/2007|
26/08/2007|
25/08/2007|
11/07/2007|
16/06/2007|
16/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
10/06/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
19/05/2007|
24/04/2007|
24/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
14/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
05/04/2007|
28/02/2007|
28/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
05/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
04/02/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
29/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
11/01/2007|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
27/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
20/12/2006|
17/11/2006|
30/09/2006|
28/07/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
12/04/2006|
06/03/2006|
21/02/2006|
17/02/2006|
31/01/2006|
10/01/2006|
28/12/2005|
31/10/2005|
26/09/2005|
29/08/2005|
11/08/2005|
08/08/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
24/06/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|
03/04/2005|

ver + notas
 
Center for the Study of the Presidency
Freedom House