Don’t Panic: Merkel Still Has Options

The collapse of talks with the Free Democrats and Greens is a setback, not the end of the world.

German chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in Paris, France, January 11, 2015
German chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in Paris, France, January 11, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

It’s only been twelve hours since the first round of coalition talks in Germany collapsed and some are already calling it the “worst political crisis” in the nation’s postwar history.

Let’s not panic yet.

Liberal ploy

First, there is the possibility that the Free Democrats only pulled out of the talks in order to put pressure on the other parties to make concessions. The Greens may have pushed their luck on energy policy and immigration.

If that’s the case, Christian Lindner, the liberal party leader, may have miscalculated. He has united the Christian Democrats and Greens against him — for now.

If the Social Democrats remain steadfast in refusing another grand coalition, though, and talks for a minority government with the Greens fail, the Free Democrats could yet return to the negotiating table.

One way or another

Another left-right pact seems unlikely. The Social Democrats lose support every time they govern with Merkel.

But she will need them one way or another if Lindner’s mind is made up. If not in a formal coalition, then their informal support for a minority government.

Postwar Germany has never had a minority government, but neighboring Denmark and the Netherlands, which have similar politics, both experimented with it in recent years.