After a cycle of nail-biting elections spanning from America’s Trump victory in November 2016, near-populist victories in France and the Netherlands, and finally June’s backfiring British elections, the German federal elections are shaping up to look like a bore.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is almost guaranteed to lead her center-right CDU/CSU (Christlich Demokratische/Soziale Union) parties to yet another victory and with it, her fourth term as the German Chancellor.
Yet, that is not where the story ends.
Unlike America, Britain, and France, where a single party (normally) wins a majority to govern alone, the German electoral system has aspects of proportional representation. Therefore, Merkel and the CDU/CSU almost certainly won’t have the majority to govern alone; they will need a coalition partner or partners. This is where the FDP (Freie Demokratische Partei), free market and relatively-limited government proponents, can make their comeback in Germany.
In the last German federal elections of 2013, the FDP, who had been coalition partners in the previous Bundestag with Merkel’s CDU/CSU, failed to garner the 5% vote threshold to be allocated seats, a first for the party that had sat in every Bundestag since the formation of the new Federal German Republic in 1949. At the same time, Merkel’s CDU/CSU failed by a slim margin to gain an outright majority. This ended with them partnering with the SPD (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands) in a grand coalition. Which inevitably moved the center-right policy positions of the CDU/CSU to the left in order to keep the socialist faction of the grand coalition in the government. Or in the slightly more blunt words of FDP leader, Christian Linder, “Up until today, the CDU has let itself be pushed around by the SPD in its economic policy.”
If the FDP could form a government with the CDU/CSU, they could then be the ones doing the pushing, and not the socialists. This time in the direction of more liberal and market-based policy solutions. The FDP supports:
- The introduction of tuition fees for university to begin addressing the economic and performance issues that have arisen since universal “free college” has been introduced in every one of Germany’s 16 states.
- The decrease of various federal taxes to the tune of 30 billion Euros.
- Restoring balance to the immigration policy prompting lawful and procedural migration while vowing to crack down on vetting and deportation of failed asylum seekers.
A CDU/CSU and FDP future looks bright, but is far from guaranteed.
If the parties performed electorally at their current polling levels (the CDU/CSU at 34% and the FDP at 9%) they would still need the cooperation of a third party to gain a majority. There is speculation of the formation of a “Jamaica coalition” (named after the black, yellow, and green colors of the Jamaican flag that are the colors of the would-be coalition parties) that would consist of the CDU/CSU, FDP, and the environmentalist German Greens. The three parties have an array of issues on which they disagree, and even Linder said his party working in conjunction with both the Greens and the CDU/CSU would be unlikely to work.
The end is far from near though, and in a year of political and electoral upsets we just may be in for a welcomed surprise.
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