_ Michael Stürmer, Chief Correspondent at WELT-Gruppe. Berlin, 22 November 2017. Published for debate.
– Angela Merkel has already announced that she is in favour of a new election after coalition talks collapsed this week. Do you think it will take place?
– All options are available. Early election is the worst one, because it will prolong the limbo in which Germany presently finds itself. There is no reason to believe that the result will be really different. It looks like a way out of the crisis but it is not. It’s an illusion. I think that the current government and the president will do their utmost to revise the present state of affairs.
– Is Angela Merkel’s political future at risk?
– Of course, it is at risk. In a parliamentary democracy, political life of leaders is always at risk, at present a little bit more than usual. There are voices who believe that she is responsible for the rise of AfD, which, together with Die Linke, is blocking the normal way of arranging a government. But this is also very vague. However, I believe that she will manage, she is best when she is with her back against the wall, and this is the present situation.
– How did Free Democrats become the main spoiler?
– It is difficult to say. My feeling is that it unsettled them, but they should have swallowed more of the things they hate. Because what they will get now will be a lot of doubt. They were out of parliament until the recent election. Basically, they have no organization, they are a kind of floating power and they operate on a very high risk. The 5 percent minimum close is always with them. Although now they crossed ten percent of the vote, that vote is not very stable. And, given the key role of the Free Democrats in the crisis, that may turn out to be the beginning of the end for the liberals. The liberals are always balancing on the edge of the abyss.
– Is any agreement with SPD possible?
– What you have seen so far is the knee-jerk rejection on the part of the present chairman of the Social Democrats Martin Schulz, who wants to preserve his leadership role. In a grand coalition, he would have to serve under Angela Merkel, whom he hates. But others, like the current foreign minister [Sigmar Gabriel], wouldn’t mind. So, Social Democrats are pretty much divided. The façade is one of unity, and this is what it should be, but behind the façade, they are very much divided.
– Is a grand coalition possible?
– It is, but there is a 10 percent chance, no more. You have the option of minority government, you have the option of new elections. Social democrats hate it when they have to move, but they are a party which loves to be in opposition. At the same time, they are a party with a lot of willingness to carry high political responsibility. That they have always shown, in good times and in bad times. In no way is this the last word on what is going to happen in three or four weeks’ time. We are in the middle of a moving drama.
– Will the domestic situation become aggravated if the AfD gets more votes?
– That would teach all parliamentary parties a very serious lesson. That’s the good side and the bad side is that it narrows the field of manoeuvre for other parties. This could happen – and this is a very bad outcome. But history is full of bad outcomes, why not this time?