Open Europe Blog

Given that August is traditionally been a slow news month, we thought we’d revive an old Open Europe tradition – German poll Fridays (we know you’re excited!). Its worth remembering we are only 6 weeks away from elections in Germany which will to a large extent determine developments in the eurozone and in the push for EU reform. So where are we at? Well the polls have been remarkably stable for the past few months with minimal fluctuations:

Source: Forsa (other polls display a similar trend)

While the result above would deliver a small majority for Angela Merkel’s current conservative/liberal coalition, a couple of percentage points could deprive them of that. However, an alternative coalition of SDP/Greens would also be unlikely to have sufficient seats to govern, and a potential Rot-Rot-Grün (SPD-Greens-Linke) coalition has been ruled out by both sides as unappealing and unworkable.

Here’s another consideration: what if the CDU/CSU/FDP coalition wins but ends up with a very narrow majority, meaning the government may not be able to pass contentious eurozone related legislation without support from the opposition due to rebels in its own ranks?

Both these factors increase the likelihood of another CDU/CSU and SPD ‘grand coalition’, like under Merkel’s first Chancellorship between 2005 and 2009.  Although that government – in which the SPD’s current Chancellor Peer Steinbrück served as Finance Minister – is credited with successfully navigating through the initial economic crisis, the SDP’s poll ratings have never recovered, while Merkel’s CDU has gone from strength to strength.

As a result, Steinbrück has ruled out another grand coalition, claiming that:

“The SPD’s inclination to enter into a Grand Coalition is pretty much zero. Why should we once again be Merkel’s lackeys?”

Of course the fact that Steinbrück himself would not serve under Merkel again does not preclude a grand coalition with someone else from the party serving as Merkel’s deputy. However, antipathy to this idea is widespread throughout the SPD, due to fears it would be unable to implement many of its policies and sink even lower in the polls (although ironically the party has also accused Merkel of stealing all its best policies for the CDU).

This is hardly a story of unrequited love – the CDU/CSU are also not keen on the idea, believing that such a coalition would be unstable as the SPD would be waiting for the appropriate time to bring down the government with the votes of the other left-wing parties before calling new elections, with Merkel unlikely to stand a fourth time, and with other credible CDU ‘spitzenkandidaten‘ thin on the ground.

Either way, if the polls remain stable over the next few weeks and are an accurate reflection of the final results, we could be in for some interesting coalition talks.

As usual, we recommend you follow us on Twitter @OpenEurope, @pswidlicki, @NinaDSchick and @matsJpersson for all the updates from Berlin over the coming weeks.

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