Frankenstein government in Germany

Kanzlerin Pestbeule is ready to lead Germany … in circles probably. On the surface a national consensus government may seem like a good idea to accomplish needed but painful social reforms in the next four years. That would be the case if this was 1) a government with a mandate, and 2) a government with real leadership.

1) despite fact that this “coalition” occupies 448 of 614 seats in parliament, it does not represent the will of 70 percent of the population. In fact, a poll last week shows that 75 percent of German voters see the arrangement as a “Notlösung” – a solution of last resort. Better than – uh – no government. A the same time, 54 percent are optimistic about the coalition. That’s not much of a mandate for such an arrangement.

2) Both SPD and CDU have serious leadership problems. The CSU (the Bavarian flavor and Siamese twin of the CDU) has no leadership problems. They have no leadeship. The Social Democrats have just dealt with their leadership problems and put a new generation of leadership in charge. We’ll see how that plays out.

This weird coalition represents quite well the state of mind of the German electorate. They want things to change – but not really. The fact is that Germany has been governed by a hidden “grand coalition” for a while. None of the reforms and changes Schröder’s government did, would have been possible without help from the opposition. These deals were hammered out in bi-and tri-partisan committees. If the Merkel gang had any complaint, it was that the entitlement reforms did not go far enough. The German electorate became frustrated with increasing cost of health care and disappearing entitlements, and voted for a conservative government – but not really.

Germany is entering an interesting transition phase. Several things can happen:

  • Nothing much
  • New leadership emerges and takes charge
  • This “coalition” becomes gridlocked and no one is in charge – which will likely lead to
  • New elections

Or any combination of the above.

I doubt that any of this will bring about the much-needed smart reforms of the social network and the entitlement programs.

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