Angela Merkel’s declaration that new elections would be better than a minority government suggests Germany will be heading back to the polls soon. Though, it should be noted that the decision on whether to call fresh election is technically the German president’s, not Merkel’s.
The so-called Jamaica coalition, bringing together Merkel’s CDU, the CSU, the Greens and the economically liberal Free Democrats, can’t be made to work as the collapse of the talks last night showed. The other alternative that would produce a majority government, another grand coalition between the CDU and the SPD, remains highly unlikely. The current consensus in the SPD is that the party needs a spell in opposition to recover; in September, it garnered only 20.5% of the vote—a post war low.
Fresh elections in Germany would not be good news for Brexit. It would mean that Germany would be continued to be focused on domestic politics. In such a state, Berlin will not be overly inclined to get involved in trying to broker a Brexit deal. Germany was never going to ride to Britain’s rescue in the Brexit talks, as David Cameron found to his cost in the renegotiation that is not how Merkel rolls, but an EU without an empowered government in its most powerful state will be harder to negotiate with.
But, perhaps, the more significant European impact of this impasse is what it means for Eurozone reform. It shows just how unlikely it is that Germany will embrace Emmanuel Macron’s Eurozone reform agenda. It would need a German leader with political capital to spare to meet Macron even half-way—and Merkel isn’t that anymore. It is also worth noting that the Free Democrat’s revival in these elections was largely driven by their tough line on the Eurozone.
So, what would happen in fresh elections? Well, one Berlin based analyst I spoke to this evening thinks that Merkel, who is still 58 percent of Germans preferred choice as Chancellor, might gain votes in fresh elections. The polls suggest that most voters blame the Free Democrats for the collapse of the talks so they could suffer a backlash for not going into government. While the shock at how well the AfD did, might prompt more people to come out for Merkel. But German politics which has been pretty predictable for so many years, is now not.