It is not only the United States which was in the throes of a serious political crisis last week. Though a comparison will not be hundred percent correct, it will not be wrong making one with the political situation in Germany. Europe’s superpower is in a political limbo, and has been struggling to find a solution though its government has been functioning fully and government employees are reporting to work. That the country is going through a crisis of this magnitude might come as a surprise after an election in which Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to win a convincing victory.
Nearly a month after the elections, a government is not yet in place and negotiations are painfully slow. According to some reports, the talks might get dragged to next year, causing harm to Germany’s interests and also that of Europe. As the economic powerhouse of Europe, the continent’s fortunes rely heavily on Germany’s decisions and the political uncertainty will only result in procrastination, thereby slowing the recovery of crisis-hit economies.
The reason for the current stalemate is not very different from that in US, because in both countries, it’s a minority which is holding the majority hostage. In the elections, in which Merkel scored well, her conservative alliance fell just five votes short of a majority in the 615-member Bundestag. Merkel’s first choice for a coalition partner is the left-leaning Social Democratic party (SPD), which finished a distant second, but the SPD is bidding a high price for its support, including a bid for the tax increase that it proposed. If Merkel agrees to this, it will be a volte face for her because this is the very idea she rejected during the campaign.
Merkel and the SPD leaders must act cautiously to make sure that the current crisis doesn’t deteriorate into a US-style dysfunction. Though such a scenario is unlikely, because Germany is no US, politics has a huge propensity for uncertainty and a hardening of positions can have disastrous consequences.
This means a few concessions from either side at this stage will be better than a prolonged crisis. And if the crisis persists, the country could be forced into another election, in which case Merkel is likely to form the government on her own terms.
In a positive development yesterday, the leaders of SPD won a green light from their party to start coalition talks with Merkel, after promising to wring concessions from the chancellor on key issues like a minimum wage, equal pay and infrastructure investment. The coming days will see intense negotiations for a compromise formula•