Free Democrats: Only 50-50 chance the coalition talks will succeed

Edited by walterp on . Posted in Politics

Talks to return Chancellor Angela Merkel at the head of a new three-way “Jamaica” coalition resumed on Monday, with politicians vowing to start working concretely on possible compromises.

But as if to illustrate how much the conservative CDU-CSU, the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens still need to iron out, there is disagreement about whether the coalition negotiations will succeed at all.

Over the weekend, FDP leader Christian Lindner (pictured) raised the possibility that talks could fail, which would necessitate new elections. And he reiterated that stance in Berlin on Monday.

“The chances are 50-50, and whether the odds get a bit longer or shorter is something we’ll see at the end of this week or the next,” Lindner said. “We don’t want a new election, but we’re not afraid of the voters.”

Statements like these are in marked contrast to those from the Greens, who see no alternative but to make the coalition talks work.

“I have to say that this idle talk about a new election is very irresponsible,” Greens co-chairman Cem Özdemir said earlier on Monday. “We weren’t elected to tell the voters we don’t like the result of the [last] election.”

Conservative leaders also seem to consider a Jamaica deal inevitable. The CDU state premier of Schleswig-Holstein, Daniel Günther, who leads a regional coalition with the Greens, has even urged his own party to make compromises on the national level. To synchronize or not to synchronize

Playing hardball

All the parties involved in the negotiations, which officially began with exploratory talks on October 18, have figures who play hardball by highlighting the difficulties of reaching a compromise and criticizing the other parties.

The FDP is different, however, in that this figure is the party chairman. On Monday Lindner specifically mentioned differences with conservatives over education and the Greens on climate protection.

“In the next phase, we want to get away from the headlines and down to concrete facts and plans, which we must and can synchronize – or perhaps can’t synchronize,” Lindner said.

There are historical reasons for this caginess. In 2013, the FDP failed to clear the 5 percent hurdle needed to sit in parliament after spending four years as the conservatives’ junior coalition partners. The party blamed that humiliation on perceptions that it had become a mere lapdog of Merkel and is determined to avoid raising any such impressions this time around.

At the same time, the FDP has arguably the least to lose from a fresh election. The party’s primary goal in the latest national poll on September 24 was to clear the 5 percent hurdle, which it did with ease, getting 10.7 percent of the vote.

If voters cast new ballots, polls indicate that the Free Democrats would likely be able to repeat that result. And that, in turn, allows them to be intransigent – but only up to a point.

Thus far things haven’t been all hugs and kisses between the negotiators.

Greens more pliable

The Greens, who got 8.8 percent of the vote in September, are in a position similar to the FDP. But since the party has been in the opposition since 2005, the desire to share power in the government is likely somewhat greater.

The partner that stands to lose the most if Jamaica talks fail is undoubtedly the conservatives. Merkel’s image took a hit after the CDU only polled 32.9 percent, and the previously unassailable chancellor feels compelled to re-assert her leadership abilities.

Meanwhile, the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the CSU, is reeling from its own electoral losses and is in the midst of a leadership struggle.

So it’s no wonder that conservatives are portraying successful coalition talks as something of a national duty. On Monday the CDU’s Volker Kauder, a member of the party’s negotiating team, said that Germany’s neighbors were looking to Berlin for leadership and expected a stable government to be formed soon.

“It wouldn’t make a very good impression if the coalition talks failed,” Kauder said.


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