_ Stefan Meister, Head of Robert Bosch Center for Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia, German Council on Foreign Relations. Berlin, 20 November 2017.
What many observers have underestimated is that the low result for CDU in the federal elections has weakened Merkel’s authority in her own party and with regard to possible coalition partners. Now, the failure of the “Jamaica coalition” will lead to deterioration of her position, because it shows that she does not have the bargaining power to create this coalition.
If there are new elections, they might take place without Angela Merkel. If she runs again, CDU/CSU might get even less votes. Her position is at risk, she has no new ideas for the country and she is lacking the energy and vision to rebuild the EU. SPD is afraid to join a coalition again, because they might lose even more support in the next elections. But the pressure will now grow not to have another election. The dynamic is very volatile, it is difficult to predict.
That means that Germany will be not able to act soon to reform the EU. A longer period of no new government will block the necessary reforms in the EU and will stop French President Macron in his activities for the time being. I do not think that this has had negative impact on the German economy, but the necessary decisions are not being made and if the situation takes much more time or new elections come, this uncertainty is not good for the EU and the European economy. No major decision will be made.
I am not so sure if FDP is the main spoiler in the German politics but it is an open question, if they were willing from the beginning to go into a Jamaica coalition and the government. They were preparing to be part of the opposition but not to take responsibility. In the end, it might be more honest to stop the negotiations because the possible coalition partners have very different positions in some very crucial areas.
The creation of a new grand coalition will be very difficult, because it is a consensus in the SPD that any new grand coalitions with Merkel’s CDU will crash the SPD in the next elections completely. But if there is no other choice and president Frank-Walter Steinmeier puts pressure on his party to go into coalition, the public pressure will grow – and SPD is a party of responsibility. But I think that it will be very difficult to overcome the consensus in the party of no further grand coalition.
I do not see growing polarization in German society. A new election without Merkel as the main candidate could even weaken AfD’s positions. If she runs again in a new election, AfD might win some more seats but I do not think that this will be much higher than last time. Moreover, the question is what new elections mean for the future of the party leaders of CDU (Merkel), Seehofer (CSU) and SPD, who are all under pressure in their own parties. If there are changes, the whole game will be reshuffled.