Two German candidates but many possible coalitions
15 September 2005, BERLIN - Challenger Angela Merkel is likely to win the most votes in German elections Sunday, but polls show her falling short of a majority. This, coupled with the slim chance that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder clings to power, means numerous coalitions are possible.
15 September 2005
BERLIN - Challenger Angela Merkel is likely to win the most votes in German elections Sunday, but polls show her falling short of a majority. This, coupled with the slim chance that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder clings to power, means numerous coalitions are possible.
Here is a ranking of possible governments that Europe's biggest economy could wind up with after 62 million voters cast their ballots on Sunday:
- GRAND COALITION: With Merkel's Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) averaging 41.6 per cent in Germany's six top opinion polls, compared with Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) at 33.7 per cent, the one government which every voter survey gives a majority is a marriage of the country's two biggest parties.
This seems the most likely election result despite the fact that Merkel and Schroeder both reject such an alliance. The Chancellor has made it clear he would quit rather than serve in any such government.
Germany was ruled by a such a grand coalition from 1966 to 1969 but the big difference back then was that both parties wanted such a government and worked to make it a success.
Analysts predict this time round a grand coalition would be highly unstable and unlikely to pass major reforms needed to cure Germany's ailing economy. New elections might have to be held as early as next year if a grand coalition comes to power, some predict.
- CONSERVATIVE LED COALITION: Merkel's CDU/CSU and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) enjoyed a solid majority for months in the polls but that support has eroded in past weeks. All six polls show the CDU/CSU-FDP failing to clinch a majority on Sunday with an average the surveys showing the bloc at 48.3 per cent.
Given that an Allensbach poll Wednesday found a surprising 33 per cent of voters still undecided, Merkel's desired coalition could still win a majority - but this has to be seen, at best, as the second most likely election result.
- LEFTIST COALITION: Chancellor Schroeder and leaders of his ruling SPD and Greens partner vow they will not set up a leftist government with the new Left Party - a merger of the former East German communists and a smaller western German protest group.
But with a few SPD chieftains like Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit touting this model, Merkel accuses the SPD and Greens planning such a government.
Analysts, however, think it is unlikely because moderate SPD and Greens members would revolt in parliament and hinder a Red-Red-Green government majority. It could also badly erode SPD support in western Germany.
- EXPANDED CENTRE-LEFT COALITION UNDER SCHROEDER: A number of analysts including political scientist Franz Walter of the University of Goettingen predict Schroeder will seek to stay in power by adding the opposition FDP to his SPD-Greens government.
SPD chancellors have ruled with both the FDP and the Greens at different times but there have been only a few short-lived three-party "streetlight coalition" (so nicknamed because the parties have red, yellow and green as their trademark colours) at regional level.
While some SPD leaders and a lower ranking Green official have openly held up this model, most of the Greens and FDP chief Guido Westerwelle have fiercely rejected it.
The problem is that the polls show no majority for Red-Yellow-Green which an average of the six polling agency results give 47.6 per cent. But here again, the high number of undecided voters could make this an option on Sunday.
- MINORITY CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT WITH GREENS BACKING: While there has been CDU/CSU cooperation with the Greens in local politics, there has never been a full-blown alliance between the Christian Democrats and the Greens at the regional or national level in Germany.
Yet the differences between the parties are not as great in all areas as might be believed. On the economy and jobs - which are the touchstones of this election given Germany's almost five million unemployed - a large segment of the Greens are more pro-market than CDU/CSU moderates who are disinclined to cut social welfare.
The Greens dread a grand coalition of Merkel's and Schroeder's parties which would force them into the opposition in Berlin. This would complete a humiliating sweep of the party from power given that the Greens have been tossed out of office in all nine governments in Germany's Laender, the federal states, in which they served.
There is thus speculation that to prevent a grand coalition enough moderate Greens would agree to support a minority Merkel CDU/CSU-FDP government. Given that a poll this week showed Merkel short of just three votes, such a government, while unlikely, is not out of the question.
- REELECTION OF SCHROEDER'S SPD-GREENS GOVERNMENT: The opinion polls and analysts are unanimous in saying that Schroeder's current government has no chance of reelection in its current form. The top six polls' latest results average out at 40.9 per cent for the ruling coalition. A gain of nine points, even through the undecided voters, seems almost out of the question.
Subject: German news