Talks on forming a coalition government between different German parties buckled on November 19, after the Free Democratic Party (FDP) pulled out. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was recently re-elected as the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), expressed disappointment but vowed to maintain stability.
The breakdown of the election results forced Merkel to seek a coalition, as the CDU captured only 30 percent of the votes and lost 65 seats. The second largest political party, the Social Democrats, already declined to return to a coalition with the CDU, leaving Merkel to negotiate primarily with the free-market, liberal FDP and the ecologist Greens party. Each of the parties are deeply divided on key issues, especially climate change and migration, and tensions over these issues pervaded the talks. On climate change, the Greens advocate for phasing out Germany’s reliance on coal and combustion engines by 2030, while the FDP has expressed reservations about what this would mean for jobs and the economy. On migration, the CDU is pushing for an annual cap on refugees, while the Greens instead seek to expand the opportunities for close relatives to join recent migrants.
The leader of the FDP, Christian Lindner, claimed that there was “no basis of trust” between the parties. “Today there was no progress but rather there were setbacks because targeted compromises were questioned,” Lindner said. “It is better not to rule than to rule insincerely.”
In a statement, Merkel described the outcome as regrettable. She reaffirmed her commitment to maintaining stability going forward. “It is a day of deep reflection on how to go forward in Germany,” Merkel said,“as chancellor, I will do everything to ensure that this country is well managed in the difficult weeks to come.” For the moment, her future prospects for the coalition government are unclear. The CDU could choose to enter talks with the Greens alone, to form a minority government. Alternatively, the CDU could attempt to persuade the Social Democrats to reconsider forming a coalition. The only remaining option would be to call snap elections for the new year.
The failure of the talks leaves Germany uncertain in the midst of greater European insecurity, as many look to Merkel and Germany for global leadership and stability. What happens next is ultimately unclear.