Germany faces new challenge of a minority rule after parliamentary election

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in need of a new alliance as the Social Democrats, the traditional partner for Ms. Merkel's party, have decided their role is in opposition.

Matthias Schrader/AP
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at a press conference on Sept. 25, 2017 following the German parliamentary election.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was embarking Monday on a complicated quest to form a new government for Europe's biggest economy and find answers to the rise of a nationalist, anti-migrant party.

Sunday's election left Ms. Merkel's conservative Union bloc weakened after a campaign that focused squarely on Germany's leader of the past 12 years. However, the result leaves no other party able to lead a new government, and Merkel herself lacks any obvious internal challenger.

The center-left Social Democrats – Merkel's partners since 2013 in a "grand coalition" of Germany's two traditionally dominant parties – vowed to go into opposition after a heavy defeat.

Caucus leader Thomas Oppermann doubled down on that pledge Monday, saying that "we will not conduct coalition talks, because voters have decided that the Social Democrats' place is in opposition."

"All of us, all the parties have the responsibility of giving this country a stable government," Peter Tauber, the general secretary of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, told ZDF television. "And a coalition can only be successful if it is able to make compromises."

Germany has no tradition of minority governments, and Merkel has already made clear she doesn't want to try that option – which would in any case be a tall order, as her bloc has only 246 of the new parliament's 709 seats.

That means the only politically plausible option is a three-way coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats and the traditionally left-leaning Greens. The combination, called a "Jamaica" coalition because the parties' colors match those of the Caribbean nation's flag, hasn't been tried in a national government.

Merkel faces lengthy talks to secure an alliance with parties that have a tradition of mutual suspicion as well as differences on issues including migration, European financial policy, and the auto industry's future.

At the same time, she faces pressure from conservative allies for an effective response to the third-place finish of the nationalist Alternative for Germany, or AfD, which entered parliament for the first time after a campaign that centered on harsh criticism of Merkel and her 2015 decision to allow in large numbers of migrants.

AfD took voters from Merkel's bloc and to a lesser extent from the Social Democrats, while also mobilizing large numbers of people who didn't previously vote.

"Of course I want to win back everyone who voted for AfD and previously voted for us," Mr. Tauber said. "To do that, we have to confront AfD clearly and show that we have the better answers."

AfD won 94 seats in the new parliament – but long-standing splits inside the party emerged on Monday, as one of its most prominent figures announced that, "after long reflection," she wouldn't join the AfD caucus, and walked out of a news conference with fellow leaders.

Party co-chairwoman Frauke Petry has been sidelined by other leaders over recent months after urging her party to exclude members who express extremist views, with the aim of attracting moderate voters.

Ms. Petry said she wants to make the party ready for government in 2021, while others have made clear their priority is no-holds-barred opposition.

"We should be open about there being differences of substance in AfD," Petry said. "An anarchic party ... can be successful in opposition, but it cannot make voters a credible offer for government."

She left without taking questions. Other leaders continued calmly with their news conference.

"I'd like to apologize in the name of my party," co-chairman Joerg Meuthen said. "This wasn't discussed with us."

This article was reported by The Associated Press.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Germany faces new challenge of a minority rule after parliamentary election
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2017/0925/Germany-faces-new-challenge-of-a-minority-rule-after-parliamentary-election
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe