Is Germany on track for fresh elections in the spring?
Last year, the SPD refused to enter coalition with Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU. The latter then entered discussions with the Greens and the FDP, which soon fell apart. The SPD have since revised their position and could return to government once more as part of a renewed, albeit significantly weaker, grand coalition.
Sunday is crunch-day for the prospect of a renewed deal. According to the FT, the SPD’s Kevin Kuhnert, is leading a movement for SPD delegates to reject a new deal between Germany’s two biggest parties. If Kuhnert succeeds, what could happen?
1. A minority government
Merkel, fearing further diminishment after a new election, could opt to lead Germany’s first post-war minority government. This could work on an issue by issue basis, relying on the FPD much of the time, as well as other parties when needed. There would be inevitable defeats, especially, if Schulz’s SPD want to look like a government in waiting, but this option would be a tricky road for Merkel who has fashioned her image as one of a stable leader. Opposition parties could bring down the government, but with the threat of a bolstered Alternative for Germany in a new election, this could deter them from doing just that.
It is worth noting that the AfD is going through a period of infighting, so if they tear themselves apart, then would be the time for other opposition parties to strike.
2. Fresh elections
In what would be another post-war first, Germany could go back to the polls less than six months after the preceding election. Since the last vote, the polls have barely budged, with the CDU/CSU remaining the largest bloc well ahead of the SPD and others. A new vote with the same parties, players and positions could lead to the exact same outcome. That would not necessarily not be a bad thing as it could jolt the SPD or even the FPD and the Greens into re-entering talks. On the other hand, with the threat of an even larger AfD looming, a new vote would be a risk for the German mainstream.
3. A big offer
According to the FT, the foundation agreement for talks between the CDU/CSU and the SPD contains provisions for increased spending, signalling that a new coalition would shift slightly leftward. This shows that Merkel is ready to budge to remain in power. If the SPD reject coalition talks with Merkel’s party on Sunday, the centre-right could offer even bigger concessions to the SPD for the sake of stability and continued power. It might not appease much of Kuhnert’s movement, and would risk alienating the right of the CDU and the CSU, but it could lead to stability.