German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s efforts to form a coalition government following the federal election in September failed this weekend when the Free Democrats (FDP) walked away from negotiations.
“As chancellor…I will do everything to make sure this country continues to be well governed through the tough weeks ahead,” said Merkel. “It’s a day at the very least for a profound examination of Germany’s future.”
Merkel became Germany’s first female Chancellor in 2005 when she led a grand coalition consisting of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).
Merkel was re-elected in 2009, when the CDU teamed up with the FDP, and again in 2013 when the CDU formed a coalition with the SPD.
The CDU managed another victory in 2017, but talks to form a coalition government with the Greens and the Free Democrats have crumbled following the parties’ inability to come to agreements regarding key issues such as migration and energy policy.
Immigration has been a key issue since 2015 when Merkel’s open door policies allowed over 1 million migrants to enter the country. Backlash against these policies played a huge role in the success of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), which in September won enough points to enter parliament for the first time in over 50 years.
AfD leader Joerg Meuthen welcomed the failure of the talks, saying that his party’s “resounding electoral success” was “breathing down the negotiators’ necks.”
Many suspect Germany will be forced to hold a second federal election.
“My point of view is that new elections would be the better path,” said Merkel, who could now seek to form a minority government with the Greens or the FDP.
An estimated 50% of voters, including German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, would prefer further negotiations to a new election.
“All those involved should pause again and rethink their positions,” said Steinmeier. “I expect everyone to be willing to talk to make it possible to form a government in the foreseeable future. Those who seek political responsibility in elections must not be allowed to shy away from it when they hold it in their hands.”
If future talks fail and Steinmeier decides to call for new elections, Germany will also have to hold a parliamentary vote on Merkel’s role as interim chancellor.
From here, the debate will shift from policy issues to Merkel herself, and whether she is strong enough to hold together a government.