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Merkel may be down, but don’t rule her out for a fourth term just yet

Germany’s chancellor since 2005, Angela Merkel is widely believed to be preparing to seek fourth term in the 2017 federal elections. (Facebook)

It’s entirely possible that September 2016 marks the worst month of German chancellor Angela Merkel’s career.Germany Flag Iconmecklenburg-vorpommern berlin

Merkel’s center-right party, the Christlich Demokratische Union (CDU, Christian Democratic Union) fell to third place in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a relatively low-population state of just 1.6 million that sprawls along the northern edge of what used to be East Germany. While the center-left Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD, Social Democratic Party) has been traditionally stronger there in elections since reunification, two factors made the CDU’s loss particularly embarrassing. The first is that it’s the state that Merkel has represented since her first election in 1990 shorly after German reunification. The second, and more ominous, is that the CDU fell behind the eurosceptic, anti-refugee Alternative für Deutschland (Afd, Alternative for Germany), a relatively new party founded in 2013 that today holds seats in 10 of Germany’s 16 state assemblies and that, according to recent polls, will easily win seats in the Bundestag in next September’s federal elections.

mecklenburg_vorpommern-2016 mecklenburg-landtag

Two weeks later, on September 18, Merkel’s CDU also suffered losses in Berlin’s state election. As left-wing parties have long dominated Berlin’s politics, and the SPD placed first and Germany’s Die Linke (the Left) and Die Grünen (the Greens) placed third and fourth behind the CDU. But even in Berlin, the AfD still won 14.2% of the vote.

berlin-2016 berlin-assembly

Taken together, the state election results forced a mea culpa from Merkel on Monday. The chancellor, who is expected (though by no means certain) to seek a fourth consecutive term next year, departed from the calm, steely confidence that since last summer has characterized her commitment to accept and integrate over a million Syrian refugees within Germany’s borders. Merkel admitted, however, that she would, if possible, rewind the clock to better prepare her country and her government for the challenge of admitting so many new migrants, and she admitted lapses in her administration’s communications. With the AfD showing no signs of abating, it’s clear that its attacks on Merkel’s open-door policy are working. Merkel’s statement earlier this week admitted that her policies have not unfolded as smoothly as she’d hoped.

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RELATED: Can Hillary Clinton become America’s Mutti?

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Indeed, German polls are starting to show that voters are souring on Merkel and her approach to migration, so much that in one poll in August for Bild, a majority of voters no longer support a fourth term for Merkel. All of which has led to hand-wringing both in Germany and abroad that Merkel’s days are numbered.

Don’t believe it. Continue reading Merkel may be down, but don’t rule her out for a fourth term just yet

Don’t risk overrating AfD’s rise in German state elections

Since taking over the Alternative for Germany party last year, Frauke Petry has steered it in a stridently anti-migrant direction. (Facebook)
Since taking over the Alternative for Germany party last year, Frauke Petry has steered it in a stridently anti-migrant direction. (Facebook)

It’s tempting to argue that results from three state elections in Germany on Sunday spell the beginning of the end for chancellor Angela Merkel.Germany Flag Icon

In all three states, the eurosceptic, anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland (AfD, Alternative for Germany) won representation for the first time at the state level. That means that the AfD’s parliamentary presence will rise to eight German state assemblies, with the party poised to enter the Bundestag in the next federal election (after narrowly missing the 5% electoral threshold in September 2013).

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RELATED: Kretschmann wins big in Germany’s prosperous south

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It’s not the first time that radical parties have made minor gains in elections. In the 1992 Baden-Württemberg state elections, the hard-right Die Republikaner (Republicans) won over 12% of the vote, making it the state’s third-largest party. Hard-right parties have routinely won a small share of the national vote, though never enough to enter the Bundestag. Former East German communists founded what is today the radical leftist flank of Die Linke (The Left) and, despite a quarter-century from the fall of the Berlin Wall, the party (certainly not as hard-left as it was in 1989) is still controversial.

It’s true that Merkel has taken a bold stand in welcoming refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa, and that policy has left many German voters concerned that the rate of immigrants — over one million since the migration crisis swelled last summer — is more than Germany society can assimilate culturally, socially and economically.

It’s not an unfair concern, so it’s not surprising that the AfD’s popularity is rising. Since its creation in 2013 as a party of mildly eurosceptic academics, it has turned sharply right under a new more hardline leader, Frauke Petry, a 40-year-old chemist and businesswoman whose anti-migration rhetoric has attracted voters scared of the effects of so many new German refugees. The AfD’s turn was so hard that Bernd Lucke, one of the movement’s founders, quit the party last summer.

The migration crisis may have been the impetus for the AfD’s emergence, but it’s no surprise that a right-wing alternative to Merkel’s Christlich Demokratische Union (CDU, Christian Democratic Union) is coming into view. She has become Germany’s most dominant politician in a generation by occupying virtually all of the ideological territory on the center-right and the center-left, leaving her right flank somewhat unprotected.

Hugging the center-left Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD, Social Democratic Party) into two grand coalitions since 2005, she’s shown a willingness to poach its most popular policies, including a raise in the German minimum wage. She’s been at the center of difficult battles to keep the European Union united, including last summer’s near-disastrous negotiations to keep Greece in the eurozone. The effect has been that more moderate voters have flocked to the CDU — so much so that she nearly won a remarkable absolute majority in the Bundestag in September 2013.

But it also means that voters who want change are turning not to the CDU’s junior coalition partner, the SPD, but to fringe groups, including the AfD. While the AfD’s gains are real, and they shouldn’t be ignored, neither should they be overstated. Far-right politics in Germany have existed for years, and while it’s true that the AfD clearly took votes from the CDU in Sunday’s state elections, it also appears that the AfD draws from far-left voters in eastern Germany and from disaffected SPD voters in western Germany.

The three states that held elections on March 13 couldn’t be more different, and it’s a risk to make blanket statements about the future of German politics through generalizing the results of Sunday’s elections.

Taking them one by one shows that, though the AfD risk is real, the electorate remains by far in favor of Merkel’s moderate approach to governance.  Continue reading Don’t risk overrating AfD’s rise in German state elections

Merkel’s coalition talks with Green Party leaders this week seem serious


German chancellor Angela Merkel, fresh off a victory at the end of last month in her country’s federal elections, turned this week to a once very-unlikely coalition partner — Germany’s Die Grünen (the Green Party). Germany Flag Icon

When news broke last week that Merkel would hold talks with the Greens, it was easy to blow it off as a formality.  After all, everyone assumed after the September 22 elections that Merkel’s center-right Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands (CDU, Christian Democratic Party) would form another ‘grand coalition’ with the center-left Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD, Social Democratic Party).

But throughout the campaign, I listed all of the reasons why a ‘black-green’ coalition made a lot of sense — and those reasons still make as much sense now as they did before the election.  Merkel’s decision to phase out nuclear power in 2011 removed the key policy difference that most divided her from the Greens.  The leadership and the rank-and-file membership of the Greens is becoming older, wealthier and, in general, more like the CDU electorate.  Moreover, its younger members are less radical and more moderate, and don’t have the same antipathy to business as the (pardon the generalization) founding ‘1960s, hippie, flower child’ generation.

With the announcement that the Greens and Merkel’s CDU will explore a second round of talks over a potential coalition, however, everyone seems to be taking seriously the possibility of a ‘black-green’ coalition, which would be unprecedented in national German politics (though the Greens and the CDU joined forces in government recently, to mixed results, in Saarland and Hamburg).

There were always really compelling reasons why another CDU/SPD ‘grand coalition’ makes little sense.

After all, Merkel’s near-landslide victory left her CDU and the more Catholic, conservative, Bavaria-based Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern (CSU, the Christian Social Union) just five seats short of an absolute majority.  She doesn’t need the SPD’s 192 seats, she needs five votes.  Moreover, the SPD’s collaboration with Merkel won it few votes, neither in Germany’s 2009 federal elections when the grand coalition’s foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier led the party to its worst election result in postwar history nor in the most recent elections when the grand coalition’s finance minister Peer Steinbrück led the SPD to its second-worst result.  As such, the SPD is looking to draw a contrast with Merkel over the next hour years, not prop up Merkel’s government as her junior partner.

That means that the SPD will be looking for the first opportunity for snap elections — and it’s not exactly a foregone conclusion that Merkel will lead the CDU/CSU into a fourth consecutive campaign.  At first glance, a coalition with the Greens may seem more bold, but it might well be the more cautious option for Merkel.  They’ll be less likely to cause problems for Merkel and, with a smaller parliamentary caucus,

Here’s the breakdown of seats in the lower house of Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, following the September 22 vote, which will have 630 seats — a ‘grand coalition’ would amount to about four-fifths of the entire Bundestag.

bundestag seats

Given that the CDU’s coalition partner between 2009 and 2013, the liberal Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP, Free Democratic Party), failed to surpass the 5% electoral threshold and lost all of its seats in the Bundestag in September, there’s only one other party to which Merkel can turn — the Greens.

Though Merkel’s coalition partners might both regret their cooperation (i.e., the SPD and the FDP both notched postwar nadirs in 2009 and 2013, respectively), there’s a strong case that a ‘black-green’ coalition could give the Greens a new identity at the very heart of Germany politics.  As a junior partner in Merkel’s third consecutive government, its supporters wouldn’t expect much, so to the extent that the Greens moderate Merkel’s agenda over the next four years (through policies that boost renewable energy or reduce CO2 emissions), their core voters should be fairly satisfied.  But the Greens stand to pick up many more centrist voters that might otherwise vote for the SPD or even for the CDU or the FDP.

The Greens ran an undeniably leftist campaign, pledging tax hikes and a 15% wealth tax to boot, along with the oft-ridiculed national ‘Veggie Day,’ and one of its four leaders, Jürgen Trittin, a former environmental minister from 1998 to 2005, faced ridicule over his approval of a pamphlet from 1981 that appeared to call for the legalization of sex between adults and minors.  Despite polls that in 2011 showed the Greens winning up to 25% or even 30% of the vote, they finished with just 8.4% of the vote — a swing of 2.3% less than their 2009 total.

Former Green Party leader and foreign minister Joschka Fischer, among others, took the Greens to task for their campaign within 48 hours of the election:

“It looks almost as though the current leadership of the Greens has gotten older but still hasn’t grown up,” Fischer told SPIEGEL following Sunday’s vote. “They followed a strategy that not only failed to win over new voters, but drove away many old ones.” Noting the party’s focus on tax hikes and social spending during the campaign, Fischer said that emphasizing a “leftist course” was a “fatal mistake.”

Former party head Reinhard Bütikofer has likewise not been complimentary of the current Green leadership. “The failure … to engage in a serious debate with Chancellor Merkel regarding … her policies for Europe granted her political hegemony” on the issue, he told SPIEGEL. He also criticized Trittin for being a mouthpiece of the party’s left wing.

Since the election, the Green leadership resigned en masse, and they elected two new leaders, including the centrist rising star Katrin Göring-Eckardt, who had served as one of two chancellor-candidates for the Greens during the election.  The Greens, who have long been divided between a more centrist realo (‘realist’) faction and a more radical fundi (‘fundamentalist’) faction, have long elected leaders in pairs (the new leftist Green leader is Anton Hofreiter, who, unlike Trittin, comes from the new generation of Greens parliamentarians).

But the clear exemplar of Greens success is Winfried Kretschmann (pictured above), the first and only minister-president of any of Germany’s 16 states — and in Baden-Württemberg, a wealthy (and relatively conservative) state in Germany’s southwest that’s a hub for commerce and industry.  Though Kretschmann came to power in 2011 on a wave of opposition to the Stuttgart 21′ rail development project, Kretschmann is now helping to implement the project after it won nearly 60% support in a subsequent referendum specifically on the project’s future.  Kretschmann, who’s firmly within the ‘realo,’ right wing of the Green Party, has won plaudits from business leaders as well, and he’s apparently playing a role in the CDU-Green negotiations.

Severe obstacles remain to a ‘black-green’ coalition. Continue reading Merkel’s coalition talks with Green Party leaders this week seem serious

Top German Green Party leader tagged with sensational sexual politics kerfuffle


The final weeks of the German election campaign have been marked by something less than substantive debate, what with the largest turn of events being center-left chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrück posing on the cover of a top news magazine giving German voters the bird.Germany Flag Icon

But with just six days to go until voting to determine the membership of the German Bundestag, the lower (and most important) house of its parliament, all eyes are on Jürgen Trittin and Die Grünen (the Greens) after a sensational story has put Trittin, a longtime Green leader, very much on the defensive.

The scandal involves a Green Party pamphlet from Göttingen in 1981 — just two years after the Greens formed as a political party — that Trittin approved and which called for the legalization of sex between minors and adults.  Trittin was a student at the time, one of five members of an editorial board that approved the manifesto, and claims not to have known the extent of the pamphlet.

Trittin, who served as the environmental minister in center-left chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s government between 1998 and 2005, today accepted full responsibility for the pamphlet and apologized for any minor role he played, which he claimed incorporated the stance of a radical gay rights group.

No one disputes the substantive content of the actual allegation, but it’s hard not to see the kerfuffle as a dirty trick against the Greens — family minister Kristina Schröder was quick to demand Trittin’s resignation, and other members of the center-right Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands (CDU, Christian Democratic Party) were also quick to attack Trittin and the Greens.  Alexander Dobrindt, the secretary-general of the CDU’s sister party in Bavaria, the Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern (CSU, the Christian Social Union), called Trittin a front man for a ‘pedophilia cartel.’

Dobrindt himself is no stranger to controversy after calling on Greece to leave the eurozone last year during the heart of the eurozone’s financial crisis, and his CSU is the main force preventing the legislative adoption of marriage equality in Germany.

The CDU/CSU’s sanctimonious tone against Trittin is akin to demanding that Merkel to resign because of her now documented, minor involvement with the communist Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (SED, Socialist Unity Party) as a young scientist in East Germany.  Even though Merkel had ties in her student days to the SED, so did most prominent East Germans, due to the nature of living in an authoritarian dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s.  No one credibly believes that any minor collaboration should outweigh the role she played as a democratic activist in the late 1980s or doubt her legitimacy over two decades as a top policymaker in the reunified Germany.

But the Greens, which got their start as a radical leftist group and emerged from the new political movements of the 1970s, including the environmental movement, the pacifist movement and the sexual revolution, formally endorsed Germany’s anti-pedophilia laws in 1989.  The Green Party has been hit with charges of supporting pedophilia in the past, and it was Franz Walter, a political scientist investigation the party’s past affiliations with pedophile activists, who discovered to link to Trittin.

It’s also not difficult to understand why the CDU/CSU is brimming with such stern disapproval — the profile of the Green Party’s electorate has become older and wealthier over the past decade.  So if the latest scandal causes Green voters to think twice about their support (especially soft Green supporters), many of them will consider voting for the CDU or the CDU’s liberal junior coalition partner, the Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP, Free Democratic Party) instead of the center-left Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD, Social Democratic Party).  That’s important — while the CDU/CSU leads the SPD by between 12 and 16 points in most opinion polls, the FDP is winning around 5% in polls, which is the threshold for winning seats in the Bundestag on the basis of proportional representation.

So in a world where the Green vote collapses, it would be much better for Merkel if the SPD gains a few more votes, so long as the FDP gains a few more votes (at least enough to win 5% of the electorate).

Given the state of the campaign, the Greens have already been doing a pretty good job of confirming their own irrelevance.  If it’s been a horrible campaign season for the SPD and the FDP, it’s not been an easy one for the Greens.  Polls show the Greens winning between 9% and 11% of the vote, and markedly less than the 20% to 25% that polls showed the Greens winning in much of 2011 — after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan but before Merkel announced her support for phasing out Germany’s nuclear energy. Continue reading Top German Green Party leader tagged with sensational sexual politics kerfuffle

Green is the new black: making the case for a Merkel-led CDU-Green coalition


I argue in EurActiv this morning that the most stable possible coalition for chancellor Angela Merkel after Germany’s September 22 federal elections might be a coalition between Merkel’s Christlich Demokratische Union (CDU, Christian Democratic Union) and the increasingly centrist Die Grünen (the Greens):

The possibility, long been referred to as a ‘Jamaica’ coalition because the colors of the three parties are those of the Jamaican flag — black (CDU), yellow (FDP) and green, has never happened in the Bundestag.  State-level examples aren’t promising – Germany’s first ‘Jamaica’ coalition in Saarland collapsed after just 26 months later, and a purely ‘black-green’ coalition in Hamburg didn’t fare much better between 2008 and 2010, ending after difficulties enacting education reforms.

While it’s still more likely that Merkel will try to continue her current coalition with the liberal Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP, Free Democrats), the FDP is polling so poorly that it may not even return to the Bundestag — if it does, it will be with far fewer seats than the 93 seats it won in the previous election.  The likeliest alternative is another ‘grand coalition’ with the center-left Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD, the Social Democratic Party), but given the difficulty that the SPD has had in drawing contrasts with Merkel since the 2005-09 coalition, there’s reason to believe another ‘grand coalition’ would be tumultuous and likely to end with early elections.

A CDU-Green union could give Merkel the best of both worlds — a more stable majority than the FDP and a more reliable coalition partner than the SPD….

Merkel’s 2011 decision to phase out nuclear energy and to boost solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy made her an immediate ally of the Greens on their top policy priority, clearing what had been the chief obstacle to a CDU-Green partnership.  Otherwise, the Greens have long been among the most pro-European of Germany’s political parties, and former Green leader and foreign minister Joschka Fischer championed greater European federalism.

It’s not to say there aren’t problems with the idea, and there’s still a leftist contingent that would be appalled by a partnership with Merkel.  During the campaign, the Greens have called for a tax increase of up to 49% for the top rate and for an additional 15% wealth tax, and it’s unlikely Merkel’s CDU would agree to anything like that.

The Greens have always been split between fundi (fundamentalist / leftists) and realo (realistic / moderate) wings.  But the radical 1960s-era Green leadership has given way to a more moderate leadership, personified by Katrin Göring-Eckardt, one of two Green chancellor-candidates and Cem Özdemir, a son of Turkish immigrants.

Even the more leftist Jürgen Trittin, the other Green chancellor-candidate, has espoused relatively centrist views.  Meanwhile, Claudia Roth, the most stridently leftist Green leader, placed last in the race to determine who should represent the Greens in this year’s election.

Perhaps the most promising sign for a ‘black-green’ coalition is the level to which Greens have governed pragmatically at the state level.  Although the Greens came to power in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg two years ago largely on the basis of opposition to the ‘Stuttgart 21’ underground train station project, it is now Green minister-president Winfried Kretschmann working with SPD allies and business interests to develop it.

Demographic data also favors a ‘black-green’ coalition:

Polling data shows that the Green electorate isn’t incredibly dissimilar to the upper-class, middle-aged CDU electorate — and nearly half of them already prefer Merkel for chancellor.

It’s not that it’s the likeliest coalition to emerge on September 23, but the chances of a ‘black-green’ government are currently underreported.

Here’s more on Germany’s upcoming elections from Suffragio, including:

Assessing the potential coalitions that might emerge after Germany’s federal elections


With now less than 40 days to go until Germany’s federal elections, polls show that chancellor Angela Merkel is by far the most popular candidate to return as chancellor and her party, the Christlich Demokratische Union (CDU, Christian Democratic Union), will clearly be the largest bloc in Germany’s Bundestag after the election. Germany Flag Icon

Polls have been remarkably consistent throughout much of the year leading up to the September 22 vote.  The center-right CDU, together with its Bavarian sister party, the Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern (CSU, the Christian Social Union), overwhelmingly leads Germany’s largest center-left party, the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD, the Social Democratic Party), and voters overwhelmingly prefer Merkel to the SPD’s candidate for chancellor, Peer Steinbrück — by a nearly two-to-one margin.  Here’s the trendline from Infratest dimap, which released its latest poll this week:


This week’s news that Germany leads GDP growth in the eurozone, which itself pulled out of recession in the second quarter of 2013, will only buoy Merkel’s chances.  Barring a huge shift in public opinion that has only calcified over the past year, Steinbrück, a bland technocrat who comes from the right wing of the SPD and who served as finance minister in the ‘grand coalition’ government of 2005 to 2009, will lead the SPD to a loss of nearly historic proportions.  But while that means Merkel is very likely to return as chancellor, the composition of Merkel’s third government is less certain.

That’s because support for Merkel’s current coalition partners, the free-market liberal Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP, Free Democratic Party), has collapsed since the previous September 2009 election, when it won 14.6% of the vote and 93 seats in the Bundestag, a record-high electoral performance for the party.  But since 2009, the FDP has struggled to maintain a presence in local Germany elections, losing support in state after state.  Its decade-long leader Guido Westerwelle, the first openly gay party leader in German history, stepped down in April 2011 as party leader and vice chancellor (though he remains foreign minister) after the FDP won barely 5% in the state elections of Baden-Württemberg.  His successor as FDP leader is the Vietnamese-born Phillip Rösler (pictured above), who began his career in Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) and who had served previously as health minister in the CDU/FDP coalition government from 2009 to 2011.

Although Rösler has not lifted the FDP back up to its 2009-level heights, he has managed to staunch the party’s decline.  In the May 2012 elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, the FDP managed to win 8.6% of the vote, an increase of nearly 2% from the previous election, though that’s largely due to the popularity of Christian Lindner, who led the FDP’s 2012 campaign.  More recently, though, in Lower Saxony’s state election in January 2013, the FDP won 9.9% of the vote, a gain of 1.7%.

It’s also because Germany’s electoral system is notoriously complex.  Germans will actually cast two votes in September — the first is for a candidate to represent one of 299 electoral districts in Germany, the second is for a German political party.  The second ‘party vote’ is meant to determine the party’s ultimate total share of seats in the Bundestag, and so a party will receive additional seats on the basis of the party vote sufficient to provide that its percentage of seats in the Bundestag is roughly equal to the percentage of votes it received pursuant to the party vote (so long as the party receives at least 5% of party vote support).  That means that the number of seats in the Bundestag changes from election to election — although it must have a minimum of 598 seats, it has had as few as 603 and as many as 672 since German reunification.

The FDP has struggled all year long to achieve merely 5% support in opinion polls and, while it’s doing better in polls than it was at the beginning of the year, there’s no guarantee that it will meet that threshold:


That means that, more than anything else, the composition of Germany’s next government turns on the FDP’s performance.  If it wins less than 5%, Merkel will not have the option of continuing a coalition with the FDP.  Moreover, even if the FDP wins more than 5%, it may still not win enough seats to cobble together a CDU/FDP majority in the 598-member Bundestag.

Furthermore, polls show that while German voters overwhelmingly prefer Merkel as chancellor, they actually favor a return to the CDU/SPD grand coalition, more than the current CDU-led government or a potential SPD-led government:


Two additional coalitions — a CDU/Green government and a united left coalition among the SPD, Green and Die Linke (the Left Party) — also win significant support.

But what are the chances that any of these five coalitions will actually emerge after September 22?  Here’s a look at each potential coalition and the chances that it could form Germany’s next government.

CDUpreferredcoalitionThe current government: CDU/FDP.

Merkel prefers to continue her current coalition over any alternative because her political agenda matches well with the FDP’s political agenda.  Any negotiations between Merkel and the SPD or the Greens would entail huge concessions from Merkel that she would not otherwise have to make in coalition with the FDP.  But, as noted above (and as represented in the graph to the right, on the basis of current polls), it’s unclear if that coalition can win a majority.

Under Rösler’s leadership, the FDP is running on a campaign of lower taxes and liberalizing Germany’s economy, which is standard Free Democratic fare, and both the FDP and Merkel’s CDU oppose new tax increases.  Their largest policy difference might be same-sex marriage — the FDP supports it and the CDU (and especially the Catholic-influenced CSU) oppose it, although the FDP has taken a much stronger stand on privacy rights than Merkel’s CDU.

Even if they win enough seats to form a majority, no one expects the margin to be larger than the government’s current 21-seat margin.  So even a single-digit majority could turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory if Merkel finds herself forced to look outside her own government to enact her legislative agenda on an ad hoc basis, especially with respect to European Union matters, given the sometimes eurosceptic nature of many CSU deputies.  That’s hardly a recipe for stable government.

Polls in August show that together, the current government will win between 44% and 47% of the vote if the election were held today.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t give us much of an idea about whether they’ll have enough support in the Bundestag to form a majority.  Since reunification, Germany has held only six federal elections — they’ve resulted in three CDU-led governments, two SPD-led governments and a single CDU-SPD grand coalition. Continue reading Assessing the potential coalitions that might emerge after Germany’s federal elections