The chancellor is in another fine mess which will have consequences in both Germany and the UK. But rumours of Merkel's demise are greatly exaggeratedby Matthew Qvortrup / November 20, 2017 / Leave a comment
The BBC was in no doubt: “the end of the Merkel era” was the way the Today Program began. The flagship program reported that the negotiations over a new German government had collapsed and that the “most likely outcome was new elections.”
It was difficult to square this with reports in the German media. As Angela Merkel’s biographer, the undersigned spent most of the night listening to “B-Funf Aktuel” (the German equivalent on BBC Five Live).
They did not talk at all about the demise of Merkel. Nor were new elections seen as the most likely scenario. Instead, the breakdown of the talks between the Greens, Merkel’s CDU, the Bavarian CSU and the Liberal FDP were seen as a tactical move by the latter party’s leader Christian Lindner.
How does that work? For those who don’t want to spend the night listening to German radio, here is a run-down of what happened—and a prediction of things to come.
At midnight Christian Lindberg—surprisingly—called a press conference, where the youthful Liberal declared: “It is better not to be in government than to pursue the wrong course in government.”
The other parties were aghast. Horst Serhofer of the Bavarian CSU was disappointed, but not surprised. Merkel, likewise. Cem Ozdemir—the co-leader of the Green Party—accused the FDP of playing a tactical game. “Their hearts were never in it,” said the politician who had been set to become the first German cabinet minister of Turkish descent.
The latter assessment is plausible. “We were touchingly close to a deal”, said Serhofer. Perhaps so, but the Liberals were not interested in a deal. Lindner had a lot to lose by going into coalition and he knew it.
The Liberals suffered when they were previously in government with the CDU and CSU, from 2009 to 2013.
Merkel ran rings around Guido Westerwelle, then FDP leader. The result was that the liberals lost their representation in the Bundestag.
Lindner’s party only regained their seats in the German Parliament eight weeks ago—and their now-leader does not want to repeat his predecessor’s mistakes.
His aim, instead, was to strengthen the party. Opinion polls show that FDP would gain votes at the expense of CDU…