Hessen State Election Confirms National Political Trends

A sunny day in Frankfurt, Germany, January 17, 2011
A sunny day in Frankfurt, Germany, January 17, 2011 (Flickr/Aeror)

Germany’s mainstream political parties both lost support in elections in Hessen on Sunday, a lightly populated state in the center of the country that contains the commercial capital of Frankfurt.

The Christian Democrats went down from 38 to 28 percent support, according to exit polls. The Greens, who have shared power with the right in Hessen since 2013, went up from 11 to 20 percent — a major victory, which will probably make it possible for the two parties to continue their coalition government.

The Social Democrats, who govern with the Christian Democrats nationally, suffered yet another historic defeat. Their support fell from 31 to 20 percent, their worst result in Hessen ever. Read more

German Free Democrats, Greens Drop Red Lines

German chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions from reporters in Valletta, Malta, November 11, 2015
German chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions from reporters in Valletta, Malta, November 11, 2015 (European Council)

Germany’s Free Democrats and Greens have each dropped demands in order to make progress in coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

Merkel has set a ten-day deadline to finish preliminary discussions and start negotiations to form a government.

  • The Free Democrats have accepted they will not be able to cut income taxes as much as they wanted.
  • The Greens no longer insist on fixed dates to shut coal-fired power stations and ban cars with internal combustion engines. Read more

European Fears of “Jamaica” Coalition Are Overblown

German chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions from reporters in Brussels, March 17, 2016
German chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions from reporters in Brussels, March 17, 2016 (Bundesregierung/Guido Bergmann)

A three-party “Jamaica” coalition in Germany may not be so bad for Europe as observers fear, writes Guntram Wolff of the Bruegel think tank in the Financial Times.

He recognizes that the liberal Free Democrats are more Euroskeptic than Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Greens. They have opposed Greek debt relief, are wary of a common eurozone budget and argue for strict enforcement the bloc’s fiscal rules.

But that also applies to Wolfgang Schäuble, the outgoing finance minister. His likely Free Democratic successor could hardly be more hawkish.

A Jamaica coalition (named for the colors of the three parties, which match the Caribbean nation’s flag) would be open to some of the other EU reform proposals French president Emmanuel Macron made this week, from enhancing defense cooperation to creating a single European asylum policy. Read more

“Jamaica” Coalition Looks Like Only Option in Germany

German chancellor Angela Merkel listens during a meeting with other European conservative party leaders in Brussels, December 13, 2012
German chancellor Angela Merkel listens during a meeting with other European conservative party leaders in Brussels, December 13, 2012 (EPP)

A three-party coalition of Christian Democrats, Free Democrats and Greens looks like the only possibility short of minority government in Germany.

Such a combination, unprecedented at the federal level, is nicknamed “Jamaica” because the parties’ colors are black, yellow and green. Read more

Center-Right Voters Eager to Govern in Germany, Center-Left Unsure

German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel and Chancellor Angela Merkel enter a cabinet meeting in Berlin, January 14, 2015
German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel and Chancellor Angela Merkel enter a cabinet meeting in Berlin, January 14, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

Center-right voters in Germany hope Angela Merkel’s next coalition government will unite her Christian Democrats and the liberal Free Democrats. But if the Greens are needed for a majority, they could live with that, the latest Deutschlandtrend poll shows.

Green party voters are less interested in a three-party coalition but surprisingly supportive of a deal with the right: 68 percent would join a Merkel-led administration.

The Christian Democrats are almost certain to remain the largest party, but it’s unclear from the polls if the Free Democrats will win enough seats to form a two-party government.

The Social Democrats, the second largest party, aren’t desperate for another “grand coalition”. Half their voters would prefer to go into opposition rather than share power with Merkel for another four years. Read more

Comparing German Party Platforms Reveals Two Divides

German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel and Chancellor Angela Merkel deliver a news conference at Schloss Meseberg, north of Berlin, May 24, 2016
German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel and Chancellor Angela Merkel deliver a news conference at Schloss Meseberg, north of Berlin, May 24, 2016 (Bundesregierung)

Comparing the platforms of the six parties competing in the German election reveals two divides:

  1. The first is between the traditional left and right on spending and taxes. The Social Democrats, Greens and far-left Die Linke want higher taxes on the wealthy to fund public investment. The Christian Democrats, liberal Free Democrats and nativist Alternative argue for tax cuts.
  2. The second divide is between the four mainstream parties and the extremes on defense and foreign policy. The Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats all support closer European integration and NATO. The Alternative wants out of the euro. Die Linke would swap NATO for a security pact with Russia.

Here is a closer look at where the parties stand on defense, Europe, immigration, spending and taxes. Read more

Greens Leave Coalition Talks, Leaving Merkel With No Alternative

German chancellor Angela Merkel waits for other leaders to arrive for the Baltic Sea States Summit in Stralsund, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, May 30, 2012 (Bundesregierung/Guido Bergman)
German chancellor Angela Merkel waits for other leaders to arrive for the Baltic Sea States Summit in Stralsund, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, May 30, 2012 (Bundesregierung/Guido Bergman)

Germany’s Green party walked out on exploratory coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats on Tuesday, leaving her with little alternative to forming a “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats.

Merkel won 41.5 percent of the votes in an election last month that left her party just five seats short of a majority in the lower chamber of parliament. The Greens lost support and finished fourth after Die Linke. Both the Christian and Social Democrats have ruled out forming a government with the latter which is the successor to former East Germany’s ruling communist party.

Although a pact could have benefited both parties electorally — socially liberal voters sympathize with the Greens’ cosmopolitanism but are doubtful they are ready for national government while the conservatives could have expanded their appeal to young and women voters — there was simply not enough common ground to enter a coalition, officials said. Climate targets, energy policy and taxation were among the main sticking points.

That leaves the Social Democrats in a stronger position. They have already signaled they could accept no higher taxes on the rich, which they campaigned on, but are unlikely to shelve their demand for a national minimum wage — which Merkel fears will harm German competitiveness.

Even such a signature achievement might not prevent them from suffering the same fate in the next election as they did in 2009, however, when they lost more than 10 percent support after supporting Merkel in the last “grand coalition.” A vast majority of Germans favors another left-right government but many voters also say they see little difference between the two major parties anymore.

Social democrat party members will have their say on a coalition deal which puts further pressure on leaders to extract concessions from the right.

Merkel’s supporters are no less enthusiastic. Her Bavarian sister party, which is more conservative, has rejected tax hikes altogether while a deal could convince rightwingers to vote for Alternative für Deutschland in next year’s European Parliament elections. The Euroskeptics failed to cross the 5 percent election threshold last month but enjoy considerable support among voters who are tired of bailing out weaker states in the periphery of the eurozone.