Berlin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel signalled she’s ready to face voters to break the country’s political stalemate, betting that they won’t blame her for failed talks on forming a coalition.
Regaining her footing after the sudden breakdown, Merkel made it clear in television interviews that she intends to serve her fourth term and prefers new elections to governing Europe’s biggest economy without a majority. Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is expected to start sounding out political parties on Tuesday to see if he can cajole them into an alliance with Merkel.
“A minority government isn’t part of my plans," Merkel said in an interview with broadcaster ARD. “I’m certain that new elections are the better way."
After 12 years in office, Merkel’s past is catching up with her as former coalition partners shun a deal with Europe’s pivotal leader. It’s a sign of Merkel’s diminished influence after Europe’s refugee crisis helped send her Christian Democratic-led to a historic low in a national election in September, while propelling the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany into parliament.
Even so, new elections in a country that’s been a beacon of European stability aren’t a foregone conclusion. Merkel could try to govern indefinitely in a caretaker capacity and Steinmeier called on all parties to try again to reach a deal, saying anyone who seeks out a political mandate “must not be allowed to shy away from it when they hold it in their hands."
“Germany needs stability now," Merkel said on ZDF television. “During the election campaign, I said I was ready to serve Germany for another four years. This attempt to form a government didn’t succeed, but that’s no reason for me to back off of that promise."
Merkel’s past government alliances, which tended to turn out badly for her junior partners, are hemming her in as she seeks to move forward.
The Free Democratic Party, which walked out of coalition talks late Sunday after a month of discussions, is wary because it crashed out of parliament after failing to impose its tax-cutting agenda as Merkel’s second-term partner between 2009 and 2013.
The Social Democrats, who teamed up twice with Merkel in a “grand coalition" of the two biggest parties, including over the past four years, are refusing a rerun after suffering their worst electoral defeat since World War II in September.
SPD policy victories, such as a national minimum wage and gender quotas for supervisory boards, didn’t prevent the party’s decline. Then there are personality clashes.
Merkel, 63, doesn’t trust FDP chairman Christian Lindner, 38, after he had harshly criticized her during the refugee crisis. She sees him as an opportunist and populist who shows no political responsibility, according to a person close to her. Lindner, meanwhile, has never been an admirer of Merkel, an FDP party official said.
Investors shrugged off the disarray, with both the euro and Germany’s DAX stock index rebounding from earlier losses on Monday.
While the German presidency is mostly ceremonial, the country’s political deadlock is thrusting Steinmeier into a key role. He’ll be prodding parties toward a coalition or engineering a minority government. If those efforts fail, it’ll be up to him to call new elections, though the constitutional hurdles to such a move are significant.
Merkel also is insulated by the absence of an obvious successor in her Christian Democratic Union.
“If she wants to, she can probably stay on," Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank, said in a note. While weakened by the election result and the failed coalition talks, an “outright challenge to her from within her own party ahead of potential early elections still seems unlikely." Bloomberg