Failed coalition talks - what next?

There are three possible scenarios after the failure of the coalition talks in Germany: a minority government, fresh elections or a new grand coalition. After long ruling out the very idea of a new grand coalition top-ranking members of the SPD leadership are now showing willingness to participate in coalition talks. A number of commentators argue that the minority government model, which would be a first for Germany, is more attractive.

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La Repubblica (IT) /

A future without Merkel and Schulz?

A new grand coalition could cost two top German politicians their posts, Berlin correspondent for La Repubblica Tonia Mastrobuoni speculates:

“The major problem for the SPD is not the frightening prospect of fresh elections but its leader, who has made one mistake after another since Sunday. ... In the top ranks of the SPD critical voices are growing louder, and that shows that Schulz has failed to secure the backing of the party leadership. ... And Angela Merkel's position is also increasingly precarious. It's no secret that part of the SPD will make its yes to a coalition contingent on it not being led by Merkel. ... CDU deputy chairman Armin Laschet categorically ruled out such a scenario on Thursday morning, but the fact that he even mentioned it is already an indication of the chancellor's weakness.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Desperately pinning hopes on the SPD

For the Neue Zürcher Zeitung the CDU's appeal to the SPD's sense of responsibility comes as no surprise:

“Particularly in the case of the CDU, the main factor behind the appeals on behalf of the nation is its trite but understandable desire to maintain its power. ... If the CDU and its jointly responsible partner the CSU have to run for election again with Merkel as their chancellor candidate, both will run the risk of a debacle. Christian Lindner's FDP now represents a genuine alternative for these voters. The young party leader has proven this with his courageous No to the three-way 'Jamaica' coalition. This is the sole reason why the SPD is being called on to continue in government now. It's not about the country. It's about the now shaky CDU leadership.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Enough of wellness democracy

A minority government would do Germany good because it would put the contest over political content in the foreground once more, Der Standard believes:

“It's no wonder Merkel wants new elections. She liked her grand coalition and she prefers consensus to conflict. The leader of a minority government naturally can't count on that sort of wellness democracy. Rather, he or she faces a tough parliamentary boot camp and must seek one or more partners for every decision. To survive you need arguments, competition, and a taste for substantive debates in your field kit. That's exactly what Germany's grand coalition lacked in the past four years. It's time to make up for that.”

The Times (GB) /

Corrosive effect of leadership without compass

The last thing Germany needs is another legislative period with Angela Merkel as chancellor, columnist Roger Boyes warns in The Times:

“For the past 12 years the chancellor has ducked big choices about Germany's role in the world, about the need for change, and now the country is paying the price. ... The corrosive effect of leadership without a compass has become clear over the past weeks. Neither the Free Democrats nor the Social Democrats trust her as a partner. ... Too many problems have been ignored or mishandled on her watch. As the master of damage control she now has to realise that she herself is damaged goods.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Opposition not a cure-all for SPD

Following the failure of the coalition talks the SPD is facing a real dilemma, Tages-Anzeiger observes:

“Any kind of grand coalition - even a secret one as a reserve majority for a Merkel minority government - entails enormous risks for the SPD. Its recently restored credibility would be destroyed, its pride once again injured. But a refusal to remain would perhaps be no less risky in the long term. Whenever it has been in the opposition in the past the SPD hasn't renewed itself any more than when it was in government. But if government and opposition are equally poor options, to paraphrase [former SPD leader] Franz Müntefering, why does the party exist at all still?”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Minority government as hands-on democracy

The taz quite likes the idea of a minority government:

“A minority government would not only offer the advantage of avoiding new elections for the time being. It would also be a hands-on approach to democracy. With the restrictive corset of a coalition removed, it would be easier to see on which issues the parties intersect - and where they don't. This way it would finally become clear that the 'Union' consists of the CDU and the CSU. In other words the CSU would have to bury its pet projects: there would be no chance of the solidarity tax being abolished or of expanded 'pensions for mothers'. A minority government is by no means the ideal political situation, because key projects for the future can be shelved amid spontaneous efforts to gain a majority. But it's still an attractive alternative.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Why it's business as usual for the economy

Die Presse finds it noteworthy that the political deadlock in Germany doesn't seem to be affecting the financial markets in the least:

“Does it really make no difference whether Germany, the leading power in the EU, has a functioning government or not? That would be an overstatement. But on the weekend it became clear that the German economy really is astonishingly robust right now. And business and bank managements have taken an astonishingly cool and objective view of the situation: a coalition of four parties that span the ideological spectrum from far right to almost far left would be burdened with too many question marks. And if there's one thing the economy doesn't like, it's insecurity.”

Pravda (SK) /

Politics is also a matter of simple maths

The dilemma over the formation of a new German government is also a question of simple maths, Pravda points out:

“People complain that never before has Germany been in such a situation. But it's also true that Germany has never had right-wing extremists in its parliament before. This is the root of the problem. The 12.6 percent of votes, translating into 94 seats in parliament, that went to the AfD are what the CDU/CSU and the FDP lack to form a coalition that could rule comfortably. Wherever one looks, extremists are achieving a minority that makes it considerably more difficult for the established parties to form a stable government. At best, large right-left coalitions emerge. ... In the worst case a political stalemate results.”

Svenska Dagbladet (SE) /

The Swedenisation of Germany

Germany is no longer the somewhat stodgy but reliable model of stability it used to be for Sweden, Svenska Dagbladet comments:

“As the Swedish party system was slowly but surely gobbled up by national conservative forces, the Germans stuck to their Merkel. ... You could rely on Germany: over there they know how to manage a country. ... Now, one million migrants, a growing anti-migration party and a government crisis later, Germany suddenly seems very Swedish. ... The dream of Sweden becoming more mature and catching up with Germany will likely remain an illusion. Now Germany is becoming more and more like Sweden, with a dark shadow looming over its politics and a growing parallel society on its streets.”

Bild (DE) /

Forget the sulking

It's the SPD's turn to make a move now, Bild stresses:

“The once glorious popular party (three German chancellors and three times co-ruling party) can demonstrate after the failed Jamaica coalition talks that it is made of sterner stuff than the ditherers waving from balconies. That each time it was necessary in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany it was prepared to take over the responsibility of government. ... A potential reward for the party: it could use its improved negotiating position vis-à-vis the weakened chancellor to push through key components of its party programme. ... Another mystery is what the SPD hopes to achieve with fresh elections. ... No party has ever won a general election by sulking in a corner. Voters don't reward those who shirk responsibility.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Make demands, don't back out

The Standard explains how in the new situation a grand coalition could be a good option for the SPD:

“The voters have spoken. Perhaps not as clearly as some would have wished, but there was a vote. So one can only encourage Steinmeier as German president to put pressure on his former party to get its act together. ... Clearly the Social Democrats have failed to realise that a lot of water has flown down the Spree river since the parliamentary elections. Merkel is no longer great and powerful, the SPD is no longer the junior partner that can count itself lucky even to be sitting at the cabinet table. Self-confident Social Democrats now have the chance to adopt an entirely different style and make demands. At least it's worth a try.”

Financial Times (GB) /

New grand coalition would be fatal for SPD

The Financial Times, by contrast, believes the SPD should set its sights on new elections:

“The SPD would be mad to yield; it would drive more of its voters to the extreme parties. ... The SPD has weakened but could rebound under new leadership. If there were a new election, Martin Schulz might step aside in favour of Andrea Nahles, the newly elected SPD leader in the Bundestag, or Manuela Schwesig, the prime minister of the north-eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. ... If the SPD were to improve on its share of the vote, and if the CDU/CSU were to lose, the two parties could perhaps form a coalition of equals.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

The beginning of the end of the Merkel era?

In Dagens Nyheter's view the chancellor's position has been deeply undermined:

“If Germany held new elections she might not even play the leading role anymore. After the elections two months ago in which the CDU scored its poorest results in six decades, her authority has taken a beating both at home and abroad. ... Her nickname 'Mutti' has long been used only sarcastically in the debate, if at all. Only a few people believe that Merkel can or wants to lead the divided CDU through another election campaign. ... The only question is who should take over the party leadership. With no natural successor standing in the wings, bitter wrangling over a new leader is to be expected in both Christian democratic parties. ... This dramatic night could mark the beginning of the end of the Merkel era.”

Zeit Online (DE) /

Minority government the best option now

Zeit Online toys with a solution other than new elections:

“A minority government would have no guarantee of success, but nor would it be doomed to failure. ... Certainly no more so than a 'Jamaica' - or conservative-liberal-Green coalition - would have been. A government in Berlin that depends on the support of the opposition would no doubt initially be looked on with distrust by Germany's international and EU partners, who would ask themselves how much power the chancellor could have in such a constellation. But parties can't choose the election outcome that suits them best. All they can do is try to make the best of it. We'll never know whether a Jamaica coalition would have been the best solution in the present circumstances. The course of the exploratory talks seems to indicate the contrary.”

La Stampa (IT) /

The AfD benefits most

La Stampa doesn't see the failure of the exploratory talks as a positive development:

“This is good news only for those who like to gloat at others' misfortune. All those who believe a stable Germany is important for Europe can only hope that the parties in Berlin arrive at a positive result and that the Germans don't lose their faith in politics despite all the compromises. ... A short-circuit would be a boon for the anti-system movement already waiting in the wings: the neo-populist, right-wing extremist Alternative for Germany (AfD), which already has 92 MPs in the 709-member Bundestag.”

Kurier (AT) /

Makeshift compromises aren't enough

A future-oriented policy isn't possible with such gaping ideological rifts, Kurier concludes:

“Migration and energy: for weeks Germany's government negotiators have been tearing each other to pieces over these topics. And if you take a step back and look at the basic political stances of the parties involved you realise that between the right-wing liberal FDP and the leftist Greens and a CDU/CSU that on top of everything else is divided on these issues, nothing more than a makeshift compromise can emerge.”