Germany Future Uncertain as Talks Fail 11/20 06:19
BERLIN (AP) -- Germany faced an uncertain political future on Monday after
the collapse of weeks of talks on forming a new government, with Chancellor
Angela Merkel set to consult the country's president and the possibility of new
Germany's Sept. 24 election produced an awkward result that left Merkel's
two-party conservative bloc seeking a coalition with the pro-business Free
Democrats and the traditionally left-leaning Greens. The combination of
ideologically disparate parties hadn't been tried before in a national
government, and came to nothing when the Free Democrats walked out of talks
Merkel said her conservatives had left "nothing untried to find a solution."
She said that she "will do everything to ensure that this country is well-led
through these difficult weeks."
It's likely to be a while before the situation is resolved. The only other
politically plausible combination with a parliamentary majority is a repeat of
Merkel's outgoing coalition with the center-left Social Democrats --- but they
have insisted time and again that they will go into opposition after a
disastrous election result.
If they stick to that insistence, that leaves a minority government --- not
previously tried in post-World War II Germany --- or new elections as the only
options. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will ultimately have to make that
decision, since the German constitution doesn't allow parliament to dissolve
To get to either destination, Steinmeier would first have to propose a
chancellor to parliament, who must win a majority of all lawmakers to be
elected. Assuming that fails, parliament has 14 days to elect a candidate of
its own choosing by an absolute majority. And if that fails, Steinmeier would
then propose a candidate who could be elected by a plurality of lawmakers.
Steinmeier would then have to decide whether to appoint a minority
government or dissolve parliament, triggering an election within 60 days.
Merkel's Union bloc is easily the biggest group in parliament, but is 109 seats
short of a majority.
Merkel, Germany's leader since 2005, said she would consult Steinmeier
Monday "and then we will have to see how things develop." She didn't say more
about her plans, or address whether she would run again if there are new
Peter Tauber, the general secretary of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union,
told Deutschlandfunk radio that politicians shouldn't "throw it back to our
citizens and say, 'vote again, we didn't agree.'"
"I think it's an absolute strength of our democracy, our society, that we
are capable of compromise --- it's because of that that we have been such a
stable and strong country in the past," Tauber said. "And we should think
carefully about whether we want to give up this principle."
Christian Lindner, the Free Democrats' leader, justified his decision to
break off talks by saying that "we would have been forced to give up our
principles and all that we had worked for for years." His party returned to
parliament in September four years after voters, unimpressed with its
performance as the junior partner in Merkel's 2009-2013 government, ejected it.
"It is better not to govern than to govern wrong," Lindner said.
Key sticking points during the talks were the issues of migration and
climate change, on which the Greens and the other parties diverged, but also
Free Democrat demands on tax policy.
Merkel had planned to meet Monday with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, but
that meeting was canceled at short notice.