For the first time possibly since the WWII, Germany has not been able to form a government for nearly five months (after the election held on September 24, 2017). Recently, the western European nation – reunified on October 3, 1990 – was about to form a government as Angela Dorothea Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) had a fruitful interaction with the same old coalition partners, the left-leaning Social Democrats. Even after more than four months of tough negotiations with the Social Democrats, Merkel was not happy as she seemingly had to compromise a lot this time.
The veteran German leader was ready to wait for some more days to form a government as the Social Democrats would have to support the deal through a referendum. Although when it seems that Germany was all set to get a coalition government yet again, the Social Democrat leader, Martin Schulz, shocked the nation on February 9 by submitting his resignation as the probable foreign minister. According to sources close to the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the decision comes as senior members of the party asked their leader not to accept the post of foreign minister offered by the CDU. From Schulz’s decision, it is clear that SPD members are ready to veto the deal.
In a statement, Schulz said that the SPD members wanted him not to join the coalition. “I hereby declare my renunciation of joining the Federal government and at the same time, sincerely hope that this will end the personal debates within the SPD,” he stressed.
Of course, the procedure of referendum is complex, but has a great importance. Before Schulz announced his decision, the Germans started considering the deal as a fine example of resolving a great crisis through a procedure as prescribed in the Constitution (if an election triggers a crisis in a democratic country). None among the CDU (246 seats or 32.9%) and the Social Democrats (153 seats or 20.5%) performed well in the September 24 election. However, they have the number to form the government together in 709-seat Bundestag and that would have been the most democratic step to form the government in current circumstances. It’s clear from Merkel’s facial expression after striking the deal that she was not at all happy….but, she had few other options.
It seemed that the Social Democrats welcomed the deal because they managed to bag some important portfolios, such as the Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry. They got a chance to become the most important persons in the corridors of power. In fact, Schulz – who refused to accept Merkel’s leadership immediately after the election – softened his stand and agreed to play an important role in the coming years. However, he made the situation critical by making a sudden change in his decision.
Schulz’s decision not only shocked Germany, but the entire Europe, which was eager to see how the Social Democrats clear the difficult test as far as its policy was concerned. Even after concentrating on labour interests for long, the Social Democrats have slowly accepted the path of capitalism and market economy. It would have been interesting to see how they deal with Eurozone through foreign and economic policies after opposing Merkel’s policies for so many years.
Till Tuesday, Europe was happy with the political deadlock in Germany mainly because of two reasons. Firstly, the Europeans thought that Merkel would manage to overcome the tough times, triggered by the rightist parties, in style. For the Europeans, it is easier to work with the chancellor as they have already worked together for 12 years. Secondly, Merkel has helped the continent tackle many crises. She played an important role in rescuing the EU from the global financial crisis in 2008. The ‘iron lady’ also played the lead role during the crisis in Greece. Merkel was very much active during Russian aggression in Ukraine, as she criticised Kremlin for flexing muscles in 2014. It was Merkel who took the main burden during the Syrian refugee crisis.
It’s a fact that everyone is not friendly to her, but her enemies are the ‘known’ characters and everyone is aware of the type of hostility. Her enemies, too, were happy with the fact that she had to compromise a lot to form a government. Overall, Europe was ready to welcome the new government in Berlin. The continent was looking at the ‘new departure’ or a Merkel government, with Social Democrats holding the remote control.
It may be said that Schulz acted as the spoilsport….
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