Wednesday

29th Mar 2023

Prospect grows of new German elections

  • Steinmeier with Merkel in Berlin on Monday (Photo: bunde.gov)

The German president has urged coalition talks to restart, but chancellor Angela Merkel said new elections might be "better".

Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued the call after meeting Merkel on Monday (20 November) to discuss the collapse of the so-called 'Jamaica' negotiations the night before.

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"All political parties elected to the German parliament have an obligation to the common interest to serve our country", he said.

"I expect from all a readiness to talk to make agreeing a government possible in the near future," he added.

The liberal FDP party walked away from the negotiations over differences, including on immigration, with the Greens, in what had been intended to be a 'Jamaica' government of the FDP (yellow), the CDU/CSU (black), and the Green parties.

The situation could lead to a Merkel minority government, new elections, or another grand coalition between the chancellor's CDU and the centre-left SPD party.

"Those who seek political responsibility in elections must not be allowed to shy away from it when they hold it in their hands," Steinmeier also said on Monday, seemingly in a call for the SPD not to rule out the latter option.

Merkel said on German TV that she preferred new elections over another SPD marriage, however.

She also said she was "sceptical" that a minority government would work because it would be too "tense" to have to seek a majority every time the government took a decision.

"I'm certain that new elections are the better way," she said.

"I'm ready to serve Germany four more years," she added.

She had said earlier in the day that an FDP coalition deal had been close. She voiced "respect" for the liberals and said they had been "on a path where we could have reached an agreement".

Markets initially reacted to the fiasco with a fall in the value of the euro and a dip in stock prices on Monday.

But they recovered later in the day, while markets for German bonds stayed quiet, reflecting underlying confidence in the German state.

The office of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who is waiting to launch a reform of the EU with Merkel, said: "We're hoping, for Germany and for Europe, that our principal partner will be stable and strong to advance together".

Macron himself said: "It's not in our interest that things get tense".

Speaking at an EU meeting in Brussels, the Dutch foreign minister, Halbe Zijlstra, said; "It's bad news for Europe that the government in Germany will take a little longer … Germany is a very influential country within the EU so if they don't have a government and therefore don't have a mandate it'll be very hard for them to take positions."

But Didier Reynders, the Belgian foreign minister, made light of the matter.

"In Belgium we have a tradition to do that [hold long coalition talks], sometimes it's very long," he said.

The European Commission also sent out a message of reassurance.

A spokesman cited chapter and verse of the German constitution on the process that governed coalition stalemates.

"We have full confidence that stability and continuity will be maintained," the Commission spokesman said, adding that these were "the trademark of German politics".

In Germany, the far-right populist AfD party and the far-left Die Linke party said the situation called for snap elections.

The AfD entered the German parliament for the first time in elections in September.

"Ms Merkel has failed, and it's time for her to go as chancellor", AfD co-leader Alexander Gauland told press on Monday.

Die Linke said a snap election would be the "logical democratic extension" of the FDP's walk-out.

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