Almost one month ago the contract of coalition between the CDU, the Christian Democrats, their sister party CSU (which mainly operates in the southern state of Bavaria and the SPD), and the Social Democrats, was signed, and with it, a new government for Germany was created. This came after six months of standing right at the edge of a political abyss without a government with full power, as all negotiations to form one had failed. It is the fourth consecutive term of Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany; nothing has changed in that department and the “Grand Coalition,” as Germans call the union of SPD and CDU/CSU, due to their being the two strongest political forces in the country, has been renewed after a four year term. It seems as though nothing has changed – yet the past year of electoral campaigning and the present policy might be ringing in the most interesting time in German politics since the reunification of East and West 1989.
The results of the 2017 election came as a shocker to both politicians and the population, even though it was predictable,that the far-right populist AfD (Alternative für Deutschland or Alternative for Germany) would gain votes immensely and the Social Democrats would have a historically awful result. Still, for many having a far-right party in the German parliament as the third strongest party was like waking up from a blissful dream, only to be hit by reality like a truck. Now, the biggest conundrum was forming a government.
The Grand Coalition had lost a good amount of votes and the SPD’s reaction was declaring it as deselected, promising their voters to switch to opposition. After negotiations between CDU/CSU, Die Grünen (The Green) and the FDP (Freie Demokartische Partei Deutschlands or Free Democratic Party of Germany) failed in the starting gates, the SPD painfully accepted to start negotiating with the Christian Democrats.
Six months after the election, after a functional government was promised to be present before Christmas, the contract of coalition was signed on Mar. 12th., marking a new beginning. For the past 12 years, Angela Merkel’s position had been safe. She was unchallenged in her own party and popular amongst Germans. But as the refugee crisis struck Germany like lightning, her perfect image started to crumble. She had managed crises before, but none had hit her like this one did. Many were discontent with the way she handled the sudden arrival of millions of refugees in Europe and shifted their votes to populist parties like the AfD, the popular slogan “Merkel muss weg” (Merkel must go) spread like a wildfire. Merkel even hesitated before running for chancellor again, but still, after the election it was clear she was going to keep the position, no matter with whom she would form a coalition.
However the new government, mostly consisting of fresh faces and even Merkel’s most forthright opponent in her own party, the young and ambitious Jens Spahn (who was given the position of Minister of Health), is fragile, even brittle. The Social Democrats are crumbling from inside and the Christian Democrats have seen better days as well – like most of Germany’s mainstream parties. SPD and CDU are being scrutinized and criticized in both singularity and unison; many are unsatisfied with the contract and believe while the trio is full of ideas, there is a lack of measurements being taken. In addition to that, there is a spat between the partners themselves – the CSU is moving in a lane of right-wing policy right now, deepening the gulf between them and the CDU, who disagree over the role the Islam should be playing in Germany.
All three parties involved carry conflicts and open wounds they set aside and never resolved, which are all inevitably going to erupt in the following term.
It is unclear who will be Angela Merkel’s successor and whether the coalition will last for the whole term of four years or come to an early end – either way, the next years will be unpredictable and most definitely, inevitably explosive.
Photo: Sandro Halank