Merkel’s France First Fourth Term – Turning Her Back on German Liberals in Favor of French Reforms
The outcome of the German federal elections, in late September, left Chancellor Angela Merkel in power, as her party the CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic/Socialist Union) took a plurality of the seats in the Bundestag, giving her the right to form a government.
Her party’s success was of limited nature though as they saw a loss of 65 seats. While a grand coalition with the second largest parliamentarian faction, the left-wing SDP (Socialist Democratic Party), would have sufficed, this composition of the government would have been a continuation of the previous fours years in the Bundestag; one which had become highly unpopular on both the left and right sides of the German political spectrum.
This option was also ruled out because it would have left the third largest party, the AFD (Alternative for Deutschland) a populist-right party (that stormed into parliament with over 11% of the vote), as the official opposition. This would have granted the party special privileges in regards to committee positions and further solidified the party’s mainstream legitimacy. A development the vast majority of German officials wish to thwart.
So Merkel is left with only one other choice, a coalition between her CDU/CSU, the Greens, and the FDP (Free Democratic Party).
A coalition that has never before been tested at the federal level, made up of an awkward mix of traditional conservatives, environmentalists, and free market liberals.
Historically though, the CDU/CSU has been in collation with the FDP as the junior coalition partner multiple times.
The FDP with its focus on free market and pro-business reforms usually desires to have important positions within the government such as control of the finance ministry. In the past, control of the finance ministry has been given to the FDP in exchange for their support in a coalition and as of now it looks like the FDP will likely be retaking control.
Yet, Merkel is fighting to have “strings” attached to this deal. Her party is angling to strip the finance minister of the role as the German representative to the European Union regarding financial matters, transferring it to the office of the economy minister that will likely be controlled by the CDU/CSU and not the FDP. This is highly significant as the CDU/CSU and Merkel have been open to EU reforms favored by French president, Emmanuel Macron.
Such reforms reek of further centralization and expansion of the EU, most notable among the proposed changes would be a common Eurozone budget, overseen by a newly created European finance minster, responsible only to the EU Parliament, who would chair the Eurogroup (the committee of member states national finance ministers).
The FDP has rightly been staunchly opposed to such reforms because they fear that a common budget would be used as a means to transfer money from financially stable countries like Germany to more stagnant or faltering economies such as France. Or even other various southern European nations such as Greece, who the FDP has called for ousting from the Eurozone for past reckless economic behavior.
So while Merkel’s influence is waning in Germany she will not cede power without a fight.
Hopefully, as coalition negations continue, Merkel will see she does not have the upper hand and will relent to giving full and unaltered power of the finance ministry to the fiscally and economically-responsible FDP, who will stand as an affront to Macron-inspired EU power grabs.
Featured image: Reuters