German Coalition Talks Collapse

Christian Lindner, head of the Free Democratic Party, arrives at his party’s headquarters in Berlin on November 20 after coalition talks failed.
ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

German Coalition Talks Collapse

Europe’s rock of stability is now in unprecedented turmoil. What’s next?

Negotiations to form a new German government collapsed yesterday after the Free Democratic Party (fdp) announced it was pulling out of the discussions. “The four discussion partners have no common vision for modernization of the country or common basis of trust,” said party leader Christian Lindner. “It is better not to govern than to govern badly.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the collapse of the talks marked an “almost historic day.”

She’s right. Germany is typically a beacon of stable government. Politico wrote that “news of the talks’ failure is bound to unnerve many in a political culture that prizes stability.” Germany is entering uncharted territory. Whatever the outcome of the collapsed talks, Germany seems almost certain to find itself in a situation never before seen in its history. It is “clear the country will have to live with a managing government for a long time for the first time,” said the Green Party’s Jürgen Trittin. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called it “the most difficult crisis of [Merkel’s] 12 years in office.”

No one believed these negotiations would be easy. If successful, this would have been the first postwar German coalition government involving four political parties: Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (cdu); her sister party, the Christian Social Union (csu); the pro-business Free Democrats; and the environmentalist Green Party. None of these parties had any incentive for compromise. The fdp had been in a coalition with Ms. Merkel before and was rewarded for its compromises by being wiped out at the electoral box in the 2013 federal election. This time, the fdp obviously decided to torpedo the whole thing rather than risk history repeating itself.

Now that the Jamaica coalition has been sunk, what is next for Germany? Ms. Merkel must now choose between a number of bad options:

Fresh Elections

Ms. Merkel could call for fresh elections, which would occur in a little over two months’ time. The downside to calling fresh elections is that Merkel could easily find herself in exactly the same situation she is in now—or worse. If there were another election, it’s likely that the Alternative für Deutschland (afd) party would pick up more seats—squeezing the main parties even further and making it even harder for them to cobble together a majority. In this scenario, Germany could easily enter March or April 2018 still without a government.

A Minority Government

Angela Merkel could attempt to govern without a majority coalition. Alone, or with the help of the Greens, Merkel could try to persuade Parliament to support legislation on a case-by-case basis. Such governments, though, are often short-lived and are a recipe for instability. This is the reason there has never been a minority government at the federal level in Germany’s history. “Such governments are alien both to the stable, long-termist ways of the German state and to Ms. Merkel’s plodding leadership style,” wrote the Economist. ”How long one would even last in the current circumstances is unclear.”

Coalition With the Social Democrats

The cdu would have a comfortable majority if it could ally with the center-left Social Democratic Party (sdp). This was the coalition in place before the election. However, the sdp suffered its worst performance since World War ii in that election and is now refusing to work with Ms. Merkel. Some hope that the Socialists could be persuaded to change their mind. And the next option could help them do that.

Angela Merkel Could Step Down

Ms. Merkel’s position is now shakier than ever. “Today is a day of destiny for Ms. Merkel,” wrote Germany’s Bild newspaper on Sunday, before the collapse of the talks. “If she fails to forge a coalition, then her chancellorship is in danger.”

The Guardian forecast: “While the debate in Germany over the past few weeks has mainly focused on policy differences between the parties, it is likely to soon shift to the chancellor, and the question of whether or not she still commands sufficient power to hold together a strong government.” Nearly two thirds of Germans said they believed a collapse in coalition talks would mean that Ms. Merkel would have to step down, according to a poll published by Welt online.

If Merkel steps down, then a new cdu leader could take a shot at forming a coalition or lead the party into fresh elections.

There are no quick or easy options. The Economist summed it up well:

The next German government will take months more to emerge and will be distinctly fragile in comparison with its predecessors. The end of the Merkel era has surely begun, though whether it has weeks, months or a short number of years to run is anyone’s guess.

Politico pointed out the high stakes of this kind of instability:

The failure means Germany is unlikely to have a stable government for months, hobbling Berlin’s ability to make pressing strategic decisions on everything from foreign policy to eurozone reform. With Europe facing a host of serious challenges, including disputes over the rule of law in Poland and Hungary and Brexit, the political instability in the EU’s largest country could hardly have come at a worse moment.

The Trumpet has been closely watching these elections and negotiations—even putting them on the cover of our latest print issue. We’ve spent a lot of time pointing out how shaky the potential coalition looked, and that it could even fail.

Why? As I wrote in my article in the last Trumpet:

The worse this leadership vacuum gets, the more Germans will demand that it be filled with someone who can stop the chaos in German politics and in Europe. Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has often warned that weak German leadership will open the door for a strong leader to rise in European politics. In a 2009 Key of David program, he said this leader could “perhaps take advantage of a weak coalition.”

That’s certainly the situation in Germany right now. But why would he make such a statement? Because Bible prophecy foretells a strong leader rising in Europe—and even how that strong leader will emerge.

That article goes over these prophecies in detail. Summing up those prophecies, Mr. Flurry wrote in a 2002 Trumpet article that this strong leader “doesn’t come to power the honorable way—by being voted into office. He takes it dishonorably! He will work behind the scenes and come to power by flatteries—not votes!”

“Complex coalition negotiations or an ineffective coalition government provide the perfect opportunity for these prophecies to be fulfilled,” I wrote in my article. “If Germany remains politically paralyzed while troubles multiply at home and Europe burns, it is easy to foresee Germans clamoring for a strong leader. This is where Germany’s political paralysis and Europe’s crises are leading.”

This is the destination Germany took a huge leap toward last night. For more on what the Bible says about the coming strong leader of Germany, read that article “Wanted: A Leader for Europe!