INTERNATIONAL

The country without a government

Two months since the elections, Germany is yet to get a new government. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which does not have enough seats in Parliament, has been trying to form a coalition. But talks between the CDU, the Free Democrats and the Green Party broke down on November 19.

While some observers believe new elections are around the corner, another option appears on the table. The formation of a grand coalition between Ms. Merkel’s centre-right CDU and the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). Martin Schulz, who was the SPD’s Chancellor candidate, and other leaders of the party first resisted such suggestions. “We are not available for a grand coalition,” he said. But now, the SPD’s views appear to have changed. SPD leader and current Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel recently said the move towards a grand coalition might be necessary “for Europe”.

However, several Germans are sceptical about the return of the grand coalition. “In my opinion, the policies of the grand coalition were not really effective during recent years. The only thing they really did was making the far-Right stronger,” said Kareem Mohammad, a 25-year-old student from Stuttgart. The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) is considered the main winner of September’s legislative elections. The party, which was formed in 2013, became the third-strongest one after the CDU and the Social Democrats. It received 94 seats in Parliament. Many believe if new elections take place, the AfD might become even stronger.

In fact, the far-Right could benefit from a grand coalition as well. If they tie up with the CDU again, the Social Democrats’ credibility will be at stake. The party might be “squashed between the CDU and the AfD”, the German version of the Huffington Post wrote in a recent op-ed. “If this happens, the AfD will make much more gains in the next election. Then it will be too late and the Conservatives will be forced to reach a coalition with them,” said Martin Schmidt, who owns a construction management firm in Stuttgart. “I know many working-class people who have voted for the AfD. This trend will increase. They feel disappointed by the Social Democrats.”

According to opinion polls, most SPD supporters oppose grand coalition plans. This position was apparent during the party congress that started on December 7. The party’s conservative wing has already warned its left-wing comrades against “opposition romances”. Instead, as they stated, it is important to accept “responsibility to govern”. They also criticised the SPD’s core, saying that “trying to stand for everything and being comfortable with everyone means that at the end, you stand for nothing”.

Change from within

At the same time, the party’s left-wing has called for change from within. “The renewal must take place,” said Matthias Miersch, spokesman of the SPD’s left-wing in Parliament, in an interview. “It would be a big challenge to take responsibility and to organise the renewal process at the same time, but I think it can succeed if all participants are ready,” he said. Like other SPD leaders, Mr. Miersch did not refuse to form a government with Ms. Merkel's CDU. But he said it is “not a good idea”.

Germany’s leftist Die Linke party has also slammed the grand coalition and the SPD's role in it. “Taking responsibility for this country means to change the course, not to continue it,” Sahra Wagenknecht, the party’s parliamentary leader, wrote on Facebook.

With talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU, Free Democrats and the Green Party collapsing, the possibility of another grand coalition with the Social Democrats is rising