_ Nikolai Pavlov, Professor at the Department of European and American Studies at the Moscow-based MGIMO University, Member of the Central Board of the Russia-Germany Society. Moscow, 20 November 2017.
In the early hours of November 20, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) withdrew from negotiations on the formation of a coalition government in Germany. According to experts, for Angela Merkel this could mean losing the chance for a fourth term as Chancellor.
The failure of parliamentary coalition with FDP and Greens represents one of the most serious blows for Angela Merkel. Should we expect early elections and will the CDU-CSU bloc get more votes?
In the current situation, three options are possible. First, continuing consultations on the creation of a coalition at the insistence of the president of Germany. Second, the establishment of a minority government on the condition of Merkel’s election as chancellor. Third, early parliamentary elections, which may take place either by the president’s decision, or in case the chancellor poses the question of confidence vote to the government.
In any case, the necessary condition is the election of Merkel as Chancellor. Therefore, we should not overdramatize the situation and run ahead of the locomotive. We will wait for results of the consultations between Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Angela Merkel.
How can the failure of the formation of government in Germany affect the activities of the EU and European economic institutions?
The failure of the negotiations is not an end of the EU and its institutions. No matter what the composition of the future German government is, continuity will be its foundation. The European integration has been and will remain the main priority of the German foreign policy. The Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is the main opponent of the European Union, is not considered by anyone a possible participant in future ruling coalitions. Its opinion is not taken into account by anyone, and does not interest anyone. A German in his right mind understands what costs Germany’s withdrawal from the EU would entail. The United Kingdom is the case in point.
Did the FDP become the main spoiler in the political life of Germany?
The word “spoiler” has many meanings. If it is means a party that draws the votes to work for the opponents of the CDU/CSU, then this is not the case, there is no benefit from it. Throughout the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Freie Demokratische Partei has always been the preferred partner and ally of Christian Democrats. I think that in the present game its position was influenced by two points: first, the party’s spectacular victory in the recent federal elections and its return to the national political scene, which gives it the opportunity to dictate its terms under the brand of preserving the consolidated electorate; second, the ambitions of the young chairman, Christian Lindner, intoxicated by success and to some extent suffering from Napoleonic complexes. At the same time, he apparently does not take into account that in case of early elections he may not be forgiven for the failure of coalition negotiations and losing the unique opportunity for the FDP to enter the government.
Are any new agreements with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) possible? The so-called grand coalition between the country’s two largest parties existed in 2013-17.
There have been three “Grand Coalitions” in Germany. Now, the leadership of the SPD itself has ruled out the possibility of its formation. This is understandable: Social Democrats need updating in both ideological and personal terms. They will not be able to do it taking government responsibilities and acting as a junior partner.
Should we expect aggravation of the domestic political situation in Germany if the Alternative for Germany gets even more votes than now in the early elections?
It is not important whether the Alternative for Germany receives a little more or slightly less votes in case of early parliamentary elections. It is a pariah for the political establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany and, apart from declarations, it cannot, and will not affect real politics. I think that this will not lead to a serious internal political crisis in the country. There are much more important topics.