Angela Merkel’s tough time to come to terms with the elections
It´s Christmas time, and still there’s no sign of a new government in Germany. Three months after general elections in September, this is a record in modern history. Funnily, nobody seems to care much: People gathering in their thousands underneath the stalls of the many Christmas markets that traditionally spring up all over the country during the festive season don’t show any sense of alarm or worry about the state of affairs. Instead, they just sip their “Glühwein” and get on with their lives.
It is remarkable for a nation obsessed with stability. As it seems, Germans have simply adjusted to the facts and feel the acting government, comprised to a large extent by the old cabinet, caters well enough for them, even without a mandate to act on a new agenda. Practically, it’s life without politics, and this even seems to come to many as a relief.
Another year, another try
As things stand, the new year will bring a new attempt to form a regular government. Christian Democrats and Social Democrats (CDU/CSU and SPD), in fact the partners of the Grand Coalition during the last term, have agreed to give it another try and will meet in early January to find out if there is enough common ground to start negotiating in earnest. The process leading up to this will be cumbersome, and many predict that it will take up much of the first quarter until the dust settles and Angela Merkel can be sworn in as Chancellor for the fourth time in her life.
Party leaders face erosion of authority
But even this prediction, involving a full six months to form a government, is by no means certain. This is because both potential partners are not only fed up with each other; but they also happen to be the big losers of the elections, sharing a loss of about 14 per cent between them compared to four years ago.
This has caused uneasiness from within in both parties, and the respective leaders, Angela Merkel of the CDU and Martin Schulz of the SPD, will have a difficult time asserting their authority over the party ranks to secure the necessary majority votes at party conventions.
Merkel confined to the waiting line
Schulz is worse off in this context than Merkel. He is in the public limelight as the leader who failed. But Merkel´s situation is not much better indeed, and time is her worst enemy: the longer it takes to form a new government, the more her authority will erode. Already today, it is clear that she is no longer in control, but has to wait for others to pave her way to success – an unusual situation for the uncontested leader of the nation for twelve years.
Meanwhile, polls show that nothing much has changed in the public’s view of things: all parties in Bundestag find themselves pretty much cemented at the same level which they attained on election day, indicating that even an irregular early election in 2018, which some dream of, wouldn’t change the big picture.
The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting LLP, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals, members or employees.
With over 25 years’ experience in journalism, political communications, and consulting, Mr. Kothé advises companies seeking relevant impact with politics and politicians. He founded FTI Consulting’s public affairs practice in Berlin in 2010. Previously, he served as spokesperson for German Federal President Horst Köhler. He also headed the communications and media team of the German liberal party, FDP. Starting his career in journalism at the BBC’s World Service in London, Mr. Kothé has also worked as a senior parliamentary correspondent for Germany’s news channel n-tv.