Grand coalitions are a normal sight in German politics. However, the one that looks like it’s going to be formed was not expected, and it definitely feels that Martin Schulz and the Social Democrats have felt obliged to agree a deal, against their better judgement. But what does it mean for Politics both in Germany, and Europe as a whole?
Out of the three previous governments formed in Germany under Angela Merkel’s chancellorship, two have been grand coalitions with the SPD. The SPD had the chance to end Merkel’s premiership in 2013, by forming a leftist umbrella coalition with die Linke and die Grünen. However, they opted for what they thought would be putting country over party and give the CDU another four years of government, much to the chagrin of many left-of-centre Germans, and paid the price for it in 2017 elections, as they reached a new low in seats.
The deal gives the SPD both Finance and Foreign Affairs and what genuinely appears to be a partnership of equals. However, this deal feels incredibly forced, after the Jamaica coalition (CDU-FDP-Grüne) failed. It was the only option left for Merkel, and Martin Schulz repeating the mistake of 2013, opted to put stability over party.
Germany faces four more years of roughly centre-ground staunchly pro-European governance. Integration with France seems to be on the agenda, as the two symbols of anti-Brexit EU unity. The SPD has been able to gain notable economic concessions from the CDU, however, whether that will please the membership in the crucial vote over whether to sanction the deal we do not no. SPD membership has risen dramatically since the election, in a potential attempt by left-wingers to stop the deal from going through
The right is not enthused about the prospect either. Merkel was able to push through her liberal immigration policies through SPD support and alliance with Martin Schulz, a former President of the European Parliament and therefore inextricably tied to what is seen as the EU agenda will not go down well with those in her own party sceptical of the Brussels-led attitude towards refugees and European integration.
The SPD is a party in crisis with the possibility of major civil war occurring (much like on the lines of the one in the Labour Party in 2016) being fought primarily between the moderate and socialist factions. The natural leader of the moderates is the outgoing Foreign minister and Schulz’s predecessor and Party Leader, Sigmar Gabriel. On the other side, the prime leader will be the Leader of the Party in the Bundestag, Andrea Nahles. This contest could change the direction of the government, and how much bargaining takes place in order to get the partnership of equals that the SPD want. Should the left of the party take control, things could get sour early on, with potential for an early election. If the section of the party closer to the centre-ground keeps their dominance, then this grand coalition will almost certainly be a lot more harmonious and will last the full four years.
For Germany, all depends on what happens in the SPD. If the membership votes for the coalition, then Angela Merkel will hang on by the skin of her teeth and this government will probably last for at least a year. On the other side, it is also likely she could face a leadership challenge from within her own party, or quit when she feels Ursula von der Leyen is ready to take the top job, or if Manfred Weber decides to copy Martin Schulz and move into domestic politics, then he could be a potential leadership challenger. If a leftist controlled SPD decides to go to the polls early, then the instability could very well continue, and a Weber-led CDU/CSU (Weber is a member of the latter) may end up looking at AfD as a coalition partner.
For the European Project, the face of integration and co-operation has stayed on, but if she goes, then Germany could well take a step back from being the main driving force in the European Union, with Emmanuel Macron’s France likely to step up to the plate and try and reinvigorate the EU in the face of Brexit.