However, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union fell five seats short of obtaining an absolute majority.
“Leibling Deutschland” or Germany’s Darling was how a conservative German paper headlined Angela Merkel’s landslide win in elections for the Federal Parliament held on Sunday. It was a personal triumph for Mrs Merkel, Germany’s only female Chancellor who has won a more than convincing third term.
Her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister Bavarian party the Christian Social Union (CDU) won 41.5 per cent of the vote in official results from all 299 centres. Germans have decided to place their trust in a benevolent but strict mother figure and several newspapers hailed the nation’s “Mutti” saying Mrs. Merkel had come to symbolise defence of the motherland.
There is a fly in the ointment, however. Mrs. Merkel’s party fell five seats short of obtaining an absolute majority, a feat achieved only by former Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in 1957. Worse, her former junior coalition partner, the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) failed to get the requisite minimum of 5 per cent of the votes and now will no longer have Parliamentary seats. This is the first time the party has taken such a drubbing. Mrs. Merkel will, therefore, have to govern in coalition and the choice is both limited and disagreeable: The Social Democratic SPD or the Greens.
The SPD whose candidate Peer Steinbruck led a disastrous and crude campaign, limped in second with 25.5 per cent of the vote, its second-worst score since WW II. The SPD is Germany’s oldest political party but has alienated its core working class electorate with laws to deregulate the labour market that resulted in institutionalising marginal, part-time and low paid work while cutting state benefits. For the second time in a row (2009 and 2013) the party has failed to impress.
Mrs. Merkel, who described her win as a “super result”, announced at a press conference on Monday that she has already approached the SPD for coalition talks. “We are, of course, open for talks and I have already had initial contact with the SPD (Social Democratic Party) chairman, who said the SPD must first hold a meeting of its leaders on Friday," Mrs. Merkel told a news conference, adding that she did not rule out talks with other potential coalition partners.
The country’s Constitution does not expressly forbid a minority Government ruling with outside support, but it is just not in Germany’s traditions to do so. And coalition building has long been a part of Germany’s post-War culture.
A Grand Coalition with the SPD still remains the most likely scenario. But the Social Democrats have already let it be known that they will play political hardball before a deal is struck. The Greens who also failed to impress with just 8 per cent of the vote, are chary of governing alone with Merkel whose total dominance would dwarf them into near inexistence. Many right wing members of Mrs. Merkel’s alliance are viscerally allergic to the pacifist Greens and would be loath to govern with them.
The idea of a Grand Coalition has been welcomed in most European capitals, especially in the debt-ridden south, where it is felt that a the Social Democrats could stem the tide of austerity or at least slow it down. The SPD is also insisting that the rich in Germany be taxed more and that a minimum wage is established for workers of all categories to stop the current shameless exploitation of the unemployed, the poor and vulnerable that is rife in Germany. The coalition negotiations could be long and arduous and a government may not be formed for several weeks yet.