Germany held Elections in September and after many months of negotiations and one failed attempt at coalition, agreement between two main parties has been now been achieved and Germany should have a government by Easter. Those not familiar with German politics might ask: why did it take so long and what could that mean?
The two major parties that used to form the government (Conservatives and Social-Democrats) lost votes while a new right-wing party, the AfD, gained significant support. Since no single party gained enough votes, a coalition had to be formed. Social-Democrats were hesitant at first to join the government again as the former way of running the country did obviously not win voters’ approval, but after the first negotiations between Conservatives, Liberals and the Green Party have failed, they decided to form a coalition with the Conservatives again. The coalition agreement achieved is quite a quite favourable for the Social-Democrats.
Why go back to the governing that did not seem to win the votes in election? Although it might seem that after long negotiations and failings, new elections might have seemed like a good alternative, the bigger parties were afraid that this could increase the popularity of the populist AfD. Since right-wing populism is on the rise in Europe and globally, this does seem possible and the following political insecurity would have harmed Germany and consequently, the EU.
In this way, there could be some minor changes within the country, even though nothing extreme is to be expected. On the European level, Germany will probably keep its strong position. As a signal this might work, although it does not reflect the people’s intention. However, a strong Germany is likely to be reassuring for Europe, especially in times of the current Brexit mess. The alternative would have been a minority government. This means that the government would have to actually convince the majority in parliament before making decisions. This could have been a great chance for German politics to become more focused on current issues and would require strong arguments for each act of legislation. Since this is very risky and would mean a lot of effort, politicians shy away from this option. Whether this would have weakened Germany, both within is borders and on the European level, or have led to more nuanced policy-making, we will never know.
However, even this less-than ideal coalition is better than no government at all. During these politically challenging times, unity can send a message to other members of the EU. The struggles of German parties may reflect the mess that is Europe, at the moment, but it also shows that in the end, we might get there.