Judy Asks: Can Merkel pull through?

Opinion piece (Carnegie Europe)
22 November 2017

When I floated the idea of a German minority government in early September and argued that there were upsides to it, the reaction was critical, bordering on hostile. How on earth could I consider that likely or even desirable? It would be the end of (pick one): German democracy, Angela Merkel, the SPD, Europe, the West. It is not just German politicians who seem unable to deal with the new reality of a six-party Bundestag. The political bubble in Berlin is equally unimaginative.

Can Merkel pull through? New elections are unlikely to yield any other result than that of September 24: no majority for any bloc. The pressure would then be on the SPD to agree to another grand coalition, however strong the SPD might try to suggest otherwise. Such a grand coalition would be led by Merkel, and would be reasonably stable.

A minority government supported by the SPD alone would not work. But as I suggested in September, a CDU/CSU minority government, supported by the SPD, the Greens, and the FDP combined, would work. Merkel would have two options for policy initiatives, the government would be stable in crisis, and Merkel would be forced to explain and fight for her policies, reinvigorating both her leadership and German democracy.

Christian Odendahl is chief economist at the Centre for European Reform.