Reporter's journal: Grand Coalition - Damned if they do, damned if they don’t?
By Guy Henderson
For someone who’s been in power more than a decade, Angela Merkel remains remarkably popular.
One New Year poll suggests 67 percent of Germans still see her as a "good Chancellor", a figure most democratically-elected leaders would be proud of.
In the same survey, though, 75 percent of respondents say they want renewal within her Christian Democratic Union; 52 percent are against a repeat of the so-called ‘Grand Coalition’ Merkel is now trying to piece back together more than three months after the election.
September’s vote saw all three governing parties lose a significant number of votes. The center-left Social Democrats laid the blame solidly on four years of intolerable compromise as the junior coalition partner that left the party alienated from its base. SPD leader Martin Schultz quickly pledged to re-connect the party with its roots, and head back into opposition.
And yet here we are in January: With no new government, and the SPD dragged back to the table.
A deal comes with political risks for the CDU/CSU and the SPD: Could another four years of compromise see yet more votes seep away? Could the far right Alternative for Germany again become the biggest benefactor?
Failure to reach agreement, though, would almost certainly mean fresh elections or a minority government.
Both could lead to an extended period of uncertainty in Europe’s largest economy, and cast further doubt over the future of the western world’s most experienced leader.
Angela Merkel may be popular; she is no longer indispensable.