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MERKEL AND STEINMEIR: NEW ELECTIONS LOOMING IN GERMANY?

November 27, 2017 By Joseph P. Farrell

As I predicted just a few blogs ago, the pressure is growing for another round of federal elections in Germany, as Chancellorin Merkel's coalition talks with the Greens and Free Democrats have broken down, and Merkel has expressed no desire to govern in a minority government. (This article was shared by Mr. V.T.):

Merkel signals readiness for new election after coalition talks collapse

There are a number of things in this article that suggest that the stumbling block in Merkel's coalition talks was, indeed, her refugee/migrant policy. Consider this statement:

The major obstacle to a three-way deal was immigration, according to Merkel, who was forced into negotiations after bleeding support in the Sept. 24 election to the far right in a backlash at her 2015 decision to let in over 1 million migrants.

The failure of exploratory coalition talks involving her conservative bloc, the liberal pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and environmentalist Greens raises the prospect of a new election and casts doubt about her future after 12 years in power.

You'll recall that it was the Free Democratic party that walked out of negotiations with Mad Madam Merkel, and this article suggests that the immigration/refugee issue may have been the stumbling bloc. If so, then the Free Democrats would appear to be reflecting a wider mood in the German electorate, and that may mean a coalition with Frau Merkel is simply impossible.

And this brings the remarks Herr Steinmeier - former Foreign Minister in Merkel's previous coalition, and now the German President -  into much sharper focus. Herr Steinmeier is, of course, a member of the Social Democrats (SDP), and is the foreign minister who, a few years ago in an address to German businessmen in Berlin, stated the obvious thing: German foreign policy, he said, would have to become much more "militaristic" and muscular in the future. Perhaps even then he was anticipating the crisis in the EU that Frau Merkel's policies would engender.

But in any case, the SDP, Herr Steinmeier's party, has indicated that it will not enter into a coalition with Merkel. Which makes the following set of remarks by Herr Steinmeier all the more curious:

Merkel, 63, said she was sceptical eabout ruling in a minority government, telling ARD television: “My point of view is that new elections would be the better path.” Her plans did not include being chancellor in a minority government, she said after meeting President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Steinmeier said Germany was facing the worst governing crisis in the 68-year history of its post-World War Two democracy and pressed all parties in parliament “to serve our country” and try to form a government.
(Emphasis added)

It would be obvious for the SDP to form a coalition with Frau Merkel if it wished to avoid another round of elections. Yet the SDP has said it will not do so. So what is going on?

Politics, that's what.

One may conjecture that perhaps Steinmeier's insistence that a coalition government be formed is the prelude to the SDP strengthening its position in any future coalition that might be formed with Frau Merkel. In this case it will target certain ministries it wants to control, and my speculation would be the Foreign, Defense, and Interior ministries, if the SDP is at all listening to what the real lesson of the last election was: Germans are increasingly anxious, as is the rest of Europe, about their national security and culture in the face of a growing refugee problem. But for her part, Frau Merkel has indicated she would prefer a new round of elections, so a coalition does not appear in the offing. As the article notes, Steinmeier was talking to his own party and the FDP with his remarks, but he was also talking to Frau Merkel: If we do enter a coalition, the price will be very high, and there will be some policies that will need to be modified.

Why would she do this?

Simply put, she is hoping that another round will diminish the AfD(Alternativ fur Deutschland) and FDP showing, and strengthen her hand, allowing a new coalition from a stronger negotiating position, and to head off potential rivals within her own party.

That, of course, is a major gamble on her part, for another round of elections could easily diminish her party even further. And if that happens, her leadership of the CDU is almost certain to be challenged.

My prediction? Well, to put it simply, it's time for Merkel to go, and that, I continue to suspect, is the real long term agenda of all parties concerned, including her own CDU. Or as some Germans say, "Merkel muss weg" (Merkel must go).

See you on the flip side...