Germany Plunged Into Political Crisis After Coalition Talks Fail


world
 Germany Plunged Into Political Crisis After Coalition Talks Fail

Chancellor Angela Merkel after meeting with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, in Berlin, on Monday.

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany faced the greatest crisis of her career on Monday after negotiations to form a new government collapsed, shaking a country that is Europes political and economic anchor.

The breakdown abruptly raised the prospect of new elections in Germany. It came less than two months after the last elections seemed to assure that Ms. Merkel, an icon of Western democracy and values, would remain Germanys leader for a fourth term.

The chancellor said she remained hopeful about forming a majority government. But if forced to choose, Ms. Merkel said, she would prefer to go through new elections rather than try to lead a minority government.

Sign Up For the Morning Briefing Newsletter 

“I dont want to say never, but I am very skeptical, and believe that new elections would be the better way forward,” the chancellor told the public broadcaster ARD.

At a time when the European Union is facing a host of pressing problems, from Brexit negotiations with Britain, to the rise of right-wing populism, to separatism in Spains Catalonia region, the possibility of political instability in a normally reliable Germany sent tremors through the Continent.

The collapse of talks reflected the deep reluctance of Ms. Merkels conservative bloc and prospective coalition partners — the ecologist-minded Greens and pro-business Free Democrats — to compromise over key positions. The Free Democrats quit the talks late Sunday, citing what they called an atmosphere of insincerity and mistrust.

“There is no coalition of the willing to form a government,” said Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund. “This is uncharted territory since 1949. Were facing a protracted period of political immobility. Not only is this not going to go away soon, there is no clear path out.”

Calling new elections is not a straightforward procedure in Germany. Written with the unstable governments of the 1920s and 1930s and collapse of the Weimar Republic in mind, the German Constitution includes several procedural hurdles that would ensure a prolonged and difficult process.

Some were quick to link Germanys disorder to a broader crisis of democracy in the West. “The unthinkable has happened,” said Christiane Hoffmann, deputy head of the Berlin bureau of Der Spiegel, a German magazine. In that sense, she said, “This is Germanys Brexit moment, its Trump moment.”

Others said Germanys troubles were in many ways just a sign that the country was becoming more normal, not less. Having had only four chancellors since 1982, the country has known only a string of centrist governments that governed by consensus.

The crisis erupted seven weeks after the last election, which brought the right-wing Alternative for Germany, or AfD, into Parliament, and in some ways represented the return of politics to a country long deprived of debate and policy disagreements.

“Its just another step in the long learning of democracy of Germany since World War II, going from a very stable proportional system to something more messy,” said Henrik Enderlein, dean of the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.

The bigger question, he said, was whether Ms. Merkels pragmatic governing style had reached its limit in an era where people crave the clash of a wider spectrum of policies. “Her über-pragmatism is reaching its end,” he said. “Its hard to see a scenario where she returns to her previous position of power.”

Ms. Merkel met in private on Monday with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who as head of state is charged with trying to break the deadlock in coalition talks. He could appoint a chancellor to lead a minority government or, failing that, set in motion the process for new elections.

The potential for instability in Germany would be a major blow to the European Union. Ms. Merkel has been the regions dominant political figure of the past decade, credited with guiding the bloc through the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and, more recently, providing a powerful counterpoint to populists across the Continent and beyond.

Financial markets reacted calmly to the turmoil in Berlin, calculating that the German economy could power through the uncertainty. After opening lower, the DAX index of major stocks closed the day higher. The euro fell slightly.

But some economists warned that the longer-term effects could be more severe. A weak government might be unable to agree on needed improvements to infrastructure and the education system, for example.

“The economic situation is very good,” Christoph M. Schmidt, chairman of the German Council of Economic Experts, said in a statement. “But over the mid and long term there are big challenges, especially the demographic shift, digitalization, sensible development of the European Union, and climate change.”

The political instability stems from the elections in Germany on Sept. 24, when Ms. Merkels Christian Democrats finished first. But their share of the overall vote dropped significantly, while the far-right Alternative for Germany scored a record vote, entering Parliament for the first time as the third-biggest grouping.

Even so, political analysts had expected Ms. Merkel to form a new coalition government that would have allowed her to remain as chancellor. That may still happen, but it will be harder now, and it is unlikely to happen soon, experts say.

Elsewhere in Europe, the possibility of a weakened Ms. Merkel and of an inward-looking Germany alarmed some leaders. The chancellor canceled a meeting in Berlin with Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands. In Paris, President Emmanuel Macron of France said that Ms. Merkels difficulties were a serious hurdle to the partnership between their two countries.

France has “no interest in a worsening of the situation” in Germany, Mr. Macron said in a statement on Monday. “Our wish is that our main partner, for the sake of Germany and Europe, remains strong and stable, so that we can move forward together,” he added.

Even if Ms. Merkels problems leave Mr. Macron as Europes de facto strongest leader — with weak domestic opposition in France, a strengthening economy, and a good record so far on driving through economic overhauls — the French president had been counting on Ms. Merkel as an ally in his push to make changes to the European Union.

Mr. Macron will be aware that his agenda for the bloc, which includes a common defense force, a strengthened euro, and a joint finance minister, stands no chance without German backing.

Ms. Merkel had originally set Friday as the deadline for reaching an agreement with the Free Democrats, the Greens, and the Christian Social Union, which forms a conservative bloc with the chancellors Christian Democrats. From the outset, all of those parties had differed markedly on key issues, notably migration and climate policies, resulting in strained talks that led to open sniping.

After they agreed to take talks into overtime, negotiators and party leaders failed to produce any breakthroughs over the weekend, and the Free Democrats quit the talks.

Ms. Merkel could try to approach the Social Democrats about forming another grand coalition. But the center-left party has served as the junior coalition partner to the Christian Democrats since 2013 and on Monday, the partys leader, Martin Schulz, said his group had no interest in another round.

As for new elections, the president can set the process in motion by proposing Ms. Merkel as chancellor, which would be put to a vote in Parliament.

If Ms. Merkel were to win a majority in the first round of voting, the president could then name her as chancellor. If not, lawmakers would vote again, within 14 days.

If Ms. Merkel failed to win a majority in a second vote, then lawmakers would vote a third time and the candidate with the most votes would win. At that point, the president could name that person chancellor or simply dissolve the Parliament and order new elections, which would take place within 60 days.

But there is no guarantee that elections would improve the situation: Recent opinion polls predict that a new vote would bring little change, compared to the result in September. A Forsa poll released last week showed Ms. Merkels conservatives at 32 percent, the Social Democrats on 20 percent, the Free Democrats at 12 percent, the Greens 10 percent and the AfD 12 percent.

Some worry that the AfD could benefit from the current chaos and increase its share of the vote. But even if it did, that share remains far below that of populist movements in other countries.

“Germany is not leaving the E.U. and it did not elect Donald Trump,” said Mr. Kleine-Brockhoff. “It was unable to form a government on its first attempt. Thats bad. It causes instability. But its not the end of the world.”

Correction: November 20, 2017

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the right-wing party that won seats in the September parliamentary elections. It is Alternative for Germany, not Alliance for Democracy.

By: The New York Times

« world

  CITIES NEWS
LONDON
DUBAI
BEDMINSTER, New Jersey
SEOUL
TAIPEI
MOSCOW
BERLIN
STOCKHOLM
WASHINGTON
LOS ANGELES
BRASILIA
SILVERSTONE, England
SAYLORSBURG, Pa
AMSTERDAM
BERGERAC, France
KABUL
BARCELONA
PARIS
MOSUL, Iraq
BRUSSELS
DOHA
CAIRO
FRANKFURT
LAUSANNE
  DATE NEWS
2017/11/30
Europe's Muslim Population May Double by 2050: Study


2017/11/29
Right-wing blogger arrested at 'It's OK to be white' speech at UConn


2017/11/28
Crew in missing Argentina submarine reported leak in final message


2017/11/27
Facebook to expand artificial intelligence to help prevent suicide


2017/11/26
2 injured at mall north of New York City after gun accidentally discharges


2017/11/25
Thousands in Madrid protest violence against women