What now for Germany after coalition talks fail?

Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing perhaps the biggest challenge of her tenure after collapse of coalition talks. New elections are now considered the most likely way forward, but are there any other alternatives?

What options are there for a majority government?

The only other majority would be theoretically be provided by a coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democrats (SPD).

The "grand coalition" governed Germany from 2013 to 2017 with 504 of 631 seats in the previous legislature.

However, after a poor election showing in September, the SPD committed to an opposition role and have not changed their position.

On Monday, SPD leader Martin Schulz rejected forming a new coalition under Merkel and said his party wouldn't shy away from fresh elections.

SPD deputy leader Thorsten Schäfer-Gumbel said on Sunday that the SPD was "not the spare wheel on Angela Merkel's careening car."

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Would a minority government be an option?

No, it is not really an option. In politically troubled times, it would be difficult for Merkel to require opposition support in order to pass every piece of legislation.

A possible coalition between the CDU, with Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Free Democrats (FDP) would lack 29 seats for a majority in parliament, and a coalition between the CDU/CSU and the Greens would lack 42 seats.

In any case, this model, which is quite common in other countries, has not yet been tested at a federal level in Germany. Immediately after the federal elections, the chancellor announced: "I intend to bring about a stable government in Germany." The SPD, for its part, ruled out supporting Merkel's minority government.

Read more: German election: Preliminary coalition talks collapse after FDP walks out

German coalition talks collapse — The reactions

Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democrats

"It is at least a day of deep contemplation about how things proceed in Germany. But I want to say to you that I, as chancellor, will do everything to lead this country through these difficult weeks."

German coalition talks collapse — The reactions

Christian Lindner, leader of the Free Democrats

"It is better not to govern than to govern incorrectly."

German coalition talks collapse — The reactions

Cem Ozdemir, leader of the Greens

"An agreement would have been possible with the necessary goodwill. We were ready for this agreement right till the last seconds, and even to go a bit further, where you cannot actually go."

German coalition talks collapse — The reactions

Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, deputy leader of the Social Democrats

"The SPD is not the spare wheel on Ms. Merkel's careening car."

German coalition talks collapse — The reactions

Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union, sister party to the Christian Democrats

"It is a pity that we did not succeed in achieving that which was within our reach."

German coalition talks collapse — The reactions

Heiko Maas, Justice Minister and member of the Social Democrats

"This party-political egoism damages our democracy."

German coalition talks collapse — The reactions

Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democrats.

"We believed we were on a path where an agreement could have been reached. I regret, with full respect for the FDP, that we could not come to a mutual agreement."

German coalition talks collapse — The reactions

Volker Wissing, leader of the Free Democrats in Rhineland-Palatinate

"Merkel has failed. She wanted to pursue green-and-black politics and not engage with the concerns of the FDP. The collapse of talks was the logical consequence."

German coalition talks collapse — The reactions

Julia Klöckner, Deputy Federal Chairperson of the Christian Democrats

"You can do what the FDP did, but don't have to. Well-prepared spontaneity. The decent thing would have been if all party chairpeople had announced the cancellation together."

German coalition talks collapse — The reactions

Alexander Gauland, deputy leader of the Alternative for Germany

"I see that we're having an effect. Frau Merkel has failed, and it is time for her to go as chancellor."

Could there be new elections?

Article 63 of Germany's constitution, or Basic Law, provides for the following scenario: The German president must first propose someone for the office of Chancellor. This person becomes chancellor if more than half of the members of the Bundestag vote for him or her ("chancellor's majority").

If the president's proposal does not receive a majority, a second voting phase will begin. Germany's parliament will then have two weeks to reach agreement, by an absolute majority, on a chancellor.

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The number of ballots is not limited, nor is the number of candidates. If no chancellor's majority is obtained in these two weeks, a third voting phase begins. In this last round, achieving a relative majority is sufficient. The candidate who wins the most votes becomes the chancellor.

At this stage, the president must act again. If someone is elected only by relative majority, the president can appoint her or him as chancellor of a minority government — but he or she can also dissolve parliament. In this case new elections must be held within 60 days.

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News | 20.11.2017

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