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A week without winners in Berlin…

‘Everybody lost’ was the verdict in Berlin after a tumultuous week in German politics. When coalition talks between CDU/CSU, FDP and Greens broke down, Germany and the EU faced the prospect of a prolongation of the uncertainty that paralysis Berlin already for months

By: N. Peter Kramer - Posted: Monday, November 27, 2017

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For Martin Schulz, the SPD leader, it has been disastrous. In the beginning of the week the small-town librarian turned European Parliament President came out firmly against such a grand coalition. But he was forced by his party into a humiliating U-turn, saying the SPD would after all help form a new government. Rumours are going around that he might be forced to resign, also in view of his complete lack of experience with negotiating on federal political level.
For Martin Schulz, the SPD leader, it has been disastrous. In the beginning of the week the small-town librarian turned European Parliament President came out firmly against such a grand coalition. But he was forced by his party into a humiliating U-turn, saying the SPD would after all help form a new government. Rumours are going around that he might be forced to resign, also in view of his complete lack of experience with negotiating on federal political level.

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by N. Peter Kramer

After the breakdown, new federal elections seemed likely. That was replaced by talk of a minority government led by Angela Merkel. But by the end of the week, that had been superseded by the option of a grand coalition between Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD), the same alliance that has ruled Germany for the last four years.

For Martin Schulz, the SPD leader, it has been disastrous. In the beginning of the week the small-town librarian turned European Parliament President came out firmly against such a grand coalition. But he was forced by his party into a humiliating U-turn, saying the SPD would after all help form a new government. Rumours are going around that he might be forced to resign, also in view of his complete lack of experience with negotiating on federal political level.

Schulz’ reluctance to enter new coalition talks was understandable. After the last grand coalition with Merkel, the SPD fell to its worst election result since 1949! That was despite have pushed through popular polices as a minimum wage and cutting the pension age. But the big partner took the credits for it. 

The past 12 years, since Merkel first took up the Chancellery, federal elections were -like football- a relatively simple game. Every four years people are asked to vote and at the end Angela Merkel wins. Till September of this year, when German voters showed their uneasiness with it. 

‘Merkellism’ has served the Chancellor, Germany and the EU. But it has also damaged the German democracy; it has alienated increasing numbers of voters. In the last elections, in September a combined 20 percent of the vote went to the political extremes, either to the nationalists of Alternative for Deutschland or the far-left Die Linke.

Over the past 12 years Merkel took the decisions; the government and the parliament were asked afterwards for their approval: from Eurozone crisis to same-sex marriage, from phasing out nuclear energy (putting coal in the ‘seat’) to the controversial decision to welcome a million refugees. 

A well-known saying in Berlin is, ‘getting on a plane piloted by Merkel you would not know the destination but you can always expect a safe landing’. That may no longer be the case…  

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