Angela Merkel departs after preliminary coalition talks collapsed Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Germany’s Götterdämmerung

With the withdrawal of the Free Democrats from coalition talks, Chancellor Angela Merkel could be forced to form a minority government. That would not necessarily be a bad thing; in fact, a Merkel who can be called to account by the Bundestag may be the best alternative Germany has.

MUNICH – Germany is experiencing a political watershed. It is not just that the exit of the Free Democrats (FDP) from coalition talks has cast doubt on whether Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) will remain in power. The FDP’s departure from negotiations with the CDU, its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Greens marks the end of a willingness to forge stable coalition governments that has defined German politics since the last days of Konrad Adenauer’s postwar chancellorship.

Of course, without the FDP’s participation, Merkel could pursue a coalition government with the Social Democrats (SPD). But the decimated SPD says that it is determined to remain in opposition, in order to recover from its crushing defeat at the polls. Any other possible coalition is out of the question, because neither the far left nor the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) are seen as acceptable partners.

A minority government under Merkel, however, is conceivable. Given that President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has expressed his distaste for calling a new election, such a scenario could become likely if Merkel does not resign on her own. And even if there is a new election, the outcome would not be much different, unless SPD leader Martin Schulz steps down.

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