The Yomiuri ShimbunIf Germany’s political impasse is protracted, it could cast a shadow over the unity of the European Union. It is imperative for the country to establish a stable government as early as possible.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing difficulties in establishing her fourth-term administration. The Merkel-led center-right Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) managed to maintain the position of the largest party in the September general election, but has yet to secure a coalition partner.
This is an extraordinary situation for Germany, a country known for its political stability. Factors behind this appear to be an election system under which it is difficult for a party to secure a majority singlehandedly and the emergence of many different parties in recent years.
Germany has adopted a proportional representation with single seat constituency electoral system, with the proportional representation having more weight. The combination of coalition parties, centering on conventional major parties, had previously been decided without difficulty. But the situation changed as the political map was remade in the wake of the September general election.
Two big parties — the CDU/CSU and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) — suffered declines in the number of their parliamentary seats. A right-wing party calling for “antirefugee” policies gained parliamentary seats for the first time, creating a situation in which six parties hold seats.
Merkel tried to form a three-party coalition government with the center-right Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Alliance 90/The Greens, an environmentalist party. But the negotiations fell through.
She failed to resolve the confrontation between the Greens, which would allow refugees to bring over their families, and the FDP, which opposes such a policy. Wasn’t it unreasonable to try to form a coalition of three parties whose political principles and policies differ so greatly?
Merkel must show leadership
It can be said that the decline in Merkel’s unifying force has become apparent in the aftermath of her failure to form a coalition government. The only realistic option left for a coalition partner is the SPD.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier came forward to mediate them to prevent the political vacuum from being prolonged and avoid having to hold another general election.
The SPD planned to quit the grand coalition with the CDU/CSU that had been in place since 2013. This is because the SPD judged that its failure to display its own uniqueness within the coalition government had led to its setback in the September poll. Attention is focused on whether the SPD will turn to take a flexible stance toward the coalition proposal following the mediation of the president.
It is worrying that Merkel could become unable to display leadership within the EU as she is entangled in internal politics.
At its summit meeting set for mid-December, the EU will decide whether to enter into trade negotiations with Britain as part of a series of procedural talks on Britain’s exit from the EU. This is a crucial phase of Brexit negotiations. Germany is called on to exercise leadership in the talks to prevent Japanese and other foreign companies operating in Britain from being dealt a blow in the aftermath of Brexit.
French President Emmanuel Macron has put forth EU reform plans, including instituting a system to compile a common budget for the eurozone. To promote these plans, cooperation with Germany will be indispensable. Germany’s political gridlock would make reforms difficult and lead to the stagnation of Europe as a whole.