Neither of the two expected coaltions, red-green or black-yellow, achieved a majority in the German election yesterday.
Bavarian CSU boss Edmund Stoiber, the conservative Union’s candidate in 2002, reportedly favours the black-yellow-green option. But how would that government overcome the culture clash between the conservative CDU, the even more conservative CSU, the free-market FDP and the leftist, evirnomentalist green party? The liberals and greens would see eye to eye on civil liberties, but would agree on little else. Green party chair Claudia Roth has already indicated that atomic energy, genetic modification, and Turkish EU ascession would all be troublesome issues between her party and the conservative bloc. But leader Joshka Fischer hasn’t ruled it out.
But there aren’t many alternatives. Gerhard Schröder rejects a Grand Coalition (between the two major parties) unless it is under his leadership as Chancellor. Liberal chief Guido Westerwelle yesterday ruled out joining the government to form a “traffic light” coaltion.
Both major parties refuse to do business with the collection of ex-Communists and SPD radicals that is the Left Party, so a red-red-green pact is off the table, too.
A Grand Coalition under different leaders might be a viable option. Perhaps knives are being sharpened in the major parties. Some SPD ministers might be more eager to retain their ministries than Schröder, and some pretenders to the CDU/CSU leadership might not have a problem with running against what would likely be an ineffective SPD-led Grand Coalition in four years&rsuo; time.
The much-discussed Dresden by-election early next month will not significantly alter the composition of the Bundestag, so we can stop speculating about that.
Schröder is arguing that the SPD, rather than Merkel’s CDU is the biggest party in the Bundestag. This is true only because the German conservatives are technically two parties — the Christican Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union. This may just be spin, but I&rsuo;m no expert in German electoral law. Perhaps this has some significance if there is some sort of legal challenge about who should have the right to make the first attempt to form a coalition.
It may be significant that one CSU politican, Erwin Huber, has already declared that the CDU/CSU alliance will not be split. He was reacting to a suggestion by SPD party chairman Franz Müntefering, who had suggested that SPD should negotiate privatly with the CDU to form a Grand Coaltion excluding the Bavarian party.
Update:** So far the best English-language summary of the coalition options comes from Canada’s Globe ↦ Mail.