Probability Above Zero: What Can Be Expected from New German Elections?

22.11.2017

German Chancellor Angela Merkel supported the idea of holding new elections to the Bundestag. In an interview with the German ARD TV channel, she said that she was skeptical about forming a minority government. Earlier Merkel said that she was not going to resign after the “Greens” and the Free Democratic Party refused to join the coalition with her party in the Bundestag. According to her, it is important to demonstrate to Europe that the country is stable.

According to polls, about 47% of German citizens are in favor of holding new elections. However, if they were held today, we would not see big changes, Valdai Club experts say. “Maybe except the Alternative for Germany: it is possible that this party would get a little more votes,” Reinhard Krumm, Head of the Regional Office for Cooperation and Peace in Europe (Vienna), Friedrich Ebert Foundation, told valdaiclub.com. He added that the current situation is “most favourable” for them.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) cannot significantly strengthen its position, said Vladislav Belov, Head of the Centre for German Studies at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “The Alternative [in case of new elections] will remain at the same level – plus or minus 1-2%,” he said. “Therefore, in this regard, Germany remains an island of political stability in Europe in terms of party preferences, electorate and the expected results in the course of possible elections”.

There are obvious reasons why creation of the coalition has faced insurmountable obstacles. This is primarily negative experience of recent years – both for the Free Democratic Party and for the Social Democrats.

In 2009, the FDP got very good results in the elections, but four years later they disappeared from the Bundestag, Krumm recalls. “The reason was that the coalition with the CDU was too complicated. Their interests were not taken into account, there were no results, the expert said. – Therefore, it is extremely important for them to make sure that this does not happen again. Although the CDU/CSU and the “Greens” were ready for a compromise, it is obvious that the liberals were not prepared to that extent.”

The FDP is very scrupulous about its election result, Belov echoed him. “The Free Democrats have done what no other party did,” he said. “So far, those parties which once left parliament never returned there. Therefore, the fact that Free Democrats returned to politics with a result more than twice as high as in 2013 is the merit of their chairman, Christian Lindner, his deputy Wolfgang Kubicki and Secretary General Nicola Beer. Of course, Lindner understands that the “Jamaica” (CDU/CSU coalition with FDP and “Greens” – Ed.) is a rather shaky construction.”

The Social Democrats have also had bad experience with the CDU. “A grand coalition had existed before 2009, and after that the situation was not very good: the party lost,” Krumm said. “Now the Social Democrats have lost even more votes. They want to understand the reasons – and party members believe that the problem is in the grand coalition.”

Nevertheless, both experts refuse to deny the prospect of the Social Democrats joining the coalition government. “Today they said no,” says Krumm. “But I cannot rule out this possibility, because at the moment the opportunities for the Social Democrats are wider than immediately after the elections. They can demand more.”

According to Belov, the probability of an agreement with the SPD is “above zero.” “Let's presume that Angela Merkel proposes the Social Democrats to lead the coalition, even though the CDU/CSU gained more votes. In theory, this is possible. It could be interesting to look at the Social Democrats – how they would react to such an offer. This does not mean that she will do it, but still it is possible.”

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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