BUNDESTAGSWAHL 2005 / GERMAN ELECTION LOG: MERKEL GETS IT . . .
. . . the German chancellory that is
. For what it's worth in identity politics terms, she is the first woman and the first former East-German to hold the post. Inevitably, given the share of the votes, the grand coalition with the social democrats means that she will nominally have a fairly limited scope for actually implementing any serious changes. As the Times reports
it became clear that Frau Merkel had paid a very high price for the leadership. During a night of horse-trading, she was forced to give Herr Schröder’s Social Democrats eight seats in her Cabinet, leaving only six for her Christian Democrats.
The Social Democrats will control the Foreign Ministry, Finance, Justice, Employment, Environment, Health, Transport and Development Aid. The Christian Democrats are left with Defence, Home Affairs, Economy, Family, Education and Agriculture.
This is quite a mess, and exactly the kind of fudging I had been concerned a grand coalition would bring about. The consequence will be, unless Merkel turns out to be a really tough leader, that Germany will slumber along without any real decisions being taken, while the coalition partners snipe at each other. It is a pretty safe bet that both sides will just be waiting for the moment when opinion polls favour their own victory and then go for it and abandon the coalition. Who this will be depends on who is responsible for the policy deadlock that will undoubtedly ensue. I would expect logically that this would be the fault of Schroeder’s gang; after all, they stalled on carrying on reforms before the elections, and if things don’t change, they are the constant factor in the game whereas the Christian democrats are already a bit of change. Of course it’s the perceptions that matter, and people may end up giving Merkel the fault for slow or little progress. We shall see. But it is disappointing that the foreign ministry will remain under social democratic control, as I was expecting a Christian democrat foreign minister to make it easier to pursue join British-German interests. But who knows, the current favourite for the post, defence minister Peter Struck, is quite a solid type who has done a decent job wrestling with the legacy of his awful predecessor Rudolf Scharping. So, perhaps a little good news may yet spring form this all.