Next attempt to form new government in Berlin

The leaders of the CDU/CSU and the SPD met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday evening to discuss the possibilities for forming a coalition government. It remains unclear which direction the quest for a new government will take now. Commentators see the stalemate in Berlin as proof of the German parties' adherence to their principles and hope that the new government will seek stronger ties with its EU partners.

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Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Adherence to principles instead of power lust

Radio Kommersant FM comments with admiration on the second attempt to form a new government in Berlin:

“The most interesting aspect from our perspective is that each of the German parties clearly feels it has a responsibility to keep the promises it made during the election campaign. This adherence to principles is the main reason why the parties have failed to reach an agreement. The people not only know who they are voting for, they also know what they are voting for. A party cannot change its programme even for the sake of gaining power. One feels obliged to point out how little in common this has with the way our parties behave! Here, the ruling party and the so-called opposition vote together on all key issues. And the third-largest party isn't even capable of formulating its principles, and therefore tries to gain support on the strength of its name alone.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

No to a coalition of cement heads

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung calls for the option of a minority government to be given serious consideration:

“The fact is that even the most stable government won't do the country any good if it stubbornly marches in the wrong direction. It can't be stressed enough that falling unemployment, a growing economy and bountiful tax revenues are not God-given. What counts is what you do with them. The Union led by Angela Merkel should take the construction industry's slogan to heart: the country must invest in its future. A grand coalition that dictates to private industry, makes labour more expensive and demotivates those willing to perform would be an ugly concrete monster. Compared to that, a minority government is a brutal functional building with an expiry date. The choice is easy.”

hvg (HU) /

Europe needs an active Germany

The difficulties in forming a new German government pose a problem above all for Europe, writes Dániel Hegedűs, a lecturer in politics at Berlin's Humboldt University, in the weekly hvg:

“The situation today is less an internal German crisis than a crisis in Germany's European and foreign policy. The Bundestag is performing its tasks smoothly, as is the grand coalition caretaker government. ... But because of the lack of a government majority Germany is unable to perform its leading role in Europe - at a time when a distinctive and active European policy is needed from Berlin. Especially bearing in mind Emmanuel Macron's reform ideas and the revival of the German-French axis in the EU.”

Les Echos (FR) /

Parochialism won't help Germany get ahead

Germany should be more open to its EU partners, the business paper Les Echos advises:

“It's no longer possible for a single country to come up with convincing answers to today's big challenges . ... Thanks to its virtues, Germany has been able to profit from the European construction. That's not enough. To ensure its future well-being it must stop burying its head in the sand and telling other countries that they need only follow its example. On top of that it must defend on the European level an economic and social model that is rejected elsewhere in the world. The SPD is more open to French perspectives; so much the better. However, it faces an uphill battle to win over German public opinion, which is unfortunately becoming increasingly parochial.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

The SPD's dilemma is solvable

A left-wing stance and participation in a new grand coalition aren't mutually exclusive for the SPD, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung explains:

“What's more important for SPD voters: a stable, predictable government headed by Chancellor Merkel under the influence of social democracy? Or commitment to a purely left-wing doctrine - but no stable government? A tough question. But the dilemma can be resolved: the SPD could lead the new coalition far more to the left than the old one - thus fulfilling both of its voters' demands. How much will Merkel be willing to pay for the power she is given?”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Grand coalition doesn't mean stability

The desire for stability isn't enough to justify another grand coalition, warns Lidové noviny:

“Angela Merkel is pinning her hopes on a new government with the Social Democrats, which seems logical enough. But it doesn't necessarily deserve applause, for several reasons. Certainly, it would save the country the trouble of another election. But would a vote really undermine its stability?... In the event of a grand coalition the AfD will become the strongest opposition party and attract even more voters. Germany would remain strong economically and in foreign policy terms, but internally it would become less stable.”

Financial Times (GB) /

End the exclusion of the Left Party

If the SPD and Green party want to rule together they will have to set aside their reservations about The Left (Die Linke) as a coalition partner, the Financial Times advises:

“For the left, the dilemma is a structural one. On current trends, the mainstream left-of-centre parties - the SPD and Greens - have no route to secure a majority and form a government. That is, unless they forgo their traditional aversion to working with Die Linke, the radical left party with East German communist roots. Accommodating the party's hostility to Nato would be awkward. But excluding them permanently no longer looks viable either. It limits the electorate's choices.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Sacrificing itself for Germany

The SPD is facing a major dilemma, Hospodářské noviny comments:

“A week ago the Social Democrats were still dead against a new grand coalition. ... But President Steinmeier has been putting pressure on the SPD, pointing out that politicians must be able to find common ground. ... The upshot is that the party will no doubt once again labour away in Merkel's shadow in the next government, meaning that in four years' time it could suffer an even worse fate than its tragic 20 percent in the last elections. Everything points to the party putting the country's interests before its own. You don't see that too often. And for that the SPD deserves our praise.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Merkel's mill no longer grinds

The Süddeutsche Zeitung doesn't see the SPD in danger of being ground between the millstones of a new grand coalition:

“Such a fear is extremely faint-hearted. Why? The fourth Merkel government will mark a transition - like the first grand coalition under CDU chancellor Kurt-Georg Kiesinger in 1966-69. It was followed by the [social democratic] government of Willy Brandt. The fourth Merkel government will be Angela Merkel's last. Her time - and strength - are coming to an end. The CDU will soon be contending with the same kind of internal wrangling over party leadership that's already weakening the CSU. ... Merkel's mill no longer grinds.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

SPD can also benefit from grand coalition

For journalist Ferruccio de Bortoli writing in Corriere del Ticino a new grand coalition represents an unexpected opportunity not just for the SPD:

“The chancellor's era is drawing to an end and a social democratic leading politician could take over her legacy. ... It is not inconceivable that the baton could change hands at half-time. Paradoxically, a party that emerged weakened from the elections seems to be in the stronger negotiating position now because there are no alternatives. ... If the Social Democrats get the post of finance minister instead of foreign minister a new chapter could begin for the Mediterranean countries, starting with Italy. Macron's project consisting of eagerly anticipated reforms could gain new impetus. And Merkel herself could be the leader of the EU in a couple of years.”

Le Monde (FR) /

An alliance of lame ducks

In the opinion of Le Monde, by contrast, a new grand coalition would be bad news:

“The grand coalition that's now taking shape will bring together the losers of September's election while relegating all the other formations that won votes to the opposition. The SPD didn't want to govern because it believed the voters had castigated the previous coalition. It was right. ... The Social Democrats are just as perplexed as most of their European colleagues, and the conservatives don't dare to turn the page on Merkel. So the grand coalition risks looking much more like an alliance of lame ducks than a winning team. That's not good news either for Germany or for Europe.”