2017 has been a rocky year for the German Chancellor, but could 2018 end her political career?
In September’s election, the German people voted for the most diverse Bundestag in the post-war era. Six groups entered the Bundestag including the far-right Alternative for Deutschland, whose third-place success has thrown a spanner in the works of Angela Merkel’s plan to rule for another four years.
After Martin Schulz’s centre-left SPD ruled out a coalition with the CDU/CSU, Merkel’s alliance entered into coalition talks with the FDP and the Greens, but those discussions quickly collapsed. This opened the door to the SPD returning to government with the CDU/CSU, with the Independent recently reporting that the two parties are entering “exploratory talks”.
It is worth bearing in mind that, the German government’s approval rating stands at -46%, its lowest since Spring 2016, according to a YouGov/Eurotrack poll.
In 2018, there will be three possible outcomes from these talks with the SPD: the grand coalition will be renewed, a confidence and supply deal will be struck with the SPD or another election will be called.
According to the Guardian, Angela Merkel has suggested she would prefer Germany to return to the polls over leading the country with a minority government. This indicates that option three is more likely than option two.
Option one is clearly the most preferable for the CDU/CSU as it would give them another four years in power and ensure stability. The problem with this is the SPD. The fact they initially ruled out a new coalition suggests their reluctance to return to government as a junior partner. The party suffered one of its worse second-place defeats in its history, and it will likely be worrying that another four years propping up the centre-right will weaken them further.
So, will Angela Merkel survive?
A renewal of the coalition or a confidence and supply deal will likely see Merkel through to the very end, but she must be aware that she is entering her final chapter. With this in mind, the party should cultivate a successor, someone who can continue Merkel’s legacy, but with less baggage over some of her more unpopular issues.
However, if there is a new election, much will depend on the outcome of the vote. The current fractured nature of German politics and the fact that the CDU/CSU are still ahead of the SPD by double figures in the polls, suggests that much is unlikely to change in a new election. But Merkel’s gamble to call a new vote could shift the numbers enough to allow for a more palatable arrangement.
Either way, Merkel will probably survive 2018, but her chances of making it into the next decade are running out.