Fresh from victory, Merkel begins search for governing partner
Fresh from her party's best election showing in more than 20 years, German Chancellor Angela Merkel started the tricky task on Monday of forming a new government because her preferred coalition partner was ousted from parliament in a shocking result.
Merkel's jubilation over winning a third term as chancellor, which would extend her time in power to 12 years, gave way to the political reality that she still needs to find a junior party with which to govern. Despite garnering far more votes than that of any other group, Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union fell five seats short of a majority in the Bundestag.
Still, the strong performance emboldened Merkel to claim a mandate and to dismiss speculation that she might soften her approach to managing Europe's long-running debt crisis. Ailing neighbors such as Spain and Greece, where more than half of all young people are out of work, have pleaded with Germany to ease its demand for unremitting austerity in exchange for financial help, but Merkel signaled that there would be no let-up.
“Our European policy course will not change,” she said.
Germans generally credit Merkel with protecting them from the ill effects of the debt crisis. The fact that their economy, Europe's largest, continues to grow and that unemployment has dwindled to near-record lows has fed a sense of well-being and satisfaction with Merkel's leadership.
But she may yet have to relent on some issues at home in her search for a coalition partner.
Her Christian Democratic Union, or CDU, was virtually the only conservative party left standing after Sunday's election. In a stunning development, the pro-market Free Democrats, with whom Merkel has governed for the past four years, failed to clear the 5 percent vote threshold required to enter parliament, shutting them out of the Bundestag for the first time in more than 60 years.
Instead, Merkel will have to try to persuade either the left-leaning, second-place Social Democrats or the smaller Green Party to join her in government. The Social Democrats, which participated in a “grand coalition” during Merkel's first term, are likely to insist that she moderate or drop her opposition to a national minimum wage or higher taxes on the rich.
“You'll have to ask (the CDU) whether it's ready to pay a price,” the Social Democrats' party chairman, Sigmar Gabriel, told reporters. “The ball is with Merkel.”
Negotiations to form a new government could last weeks. In 2005, the CDU and the Social Democrats took two months to reach an agreement on governing together.
“Thoroughness goes before speed,” Merkel said of the talks — a statement that also neatly sums up her leadership style.
If she completes another full four-year term, Merkel would eclipse the late Margaret Thatcher, Britain's former prime minister, as Europe's longest-serving female leader. Merkel, 59, also would become Germany's longest-serving chancellor since Helmut Kohl, her onetime mentor, whom she turned against and replaced as leader of the CDU in 1998.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Russia’s business world rattled by arrest of oil tycoon Yevtushenkov
- Obama, generals part ways on ground war in Iraq
- With hours before secession vote, many in Scotland undecided
- Aid to Ukraine uncertain as its leader visits U.S.
- Nations urged to follow U.S. example on Ebola
- Al-Qaida’s South Asia wing claims 1st big strike
- 3 troops killed in Taliban strike in Afghanistan
- Nominees for 2 Iraqi ministries rejected
- Syrian terrorists free 45 Fijian peacekeepers
- United Nations fears for safety of staff in Kabul
- Diplomatic push swells against ISIS