05 October 2005

Political progress in Germany?

It's been nearly three weeks since the general election here in Germany. In that time we've seen an awful lot of uming and ahing, of meetings to sound out the other parties, of political posturing and nothing but gigantic question marks over who is going to lead the country and with which flavour of government behind them. But now, finally, there seems to be a faint glimmer of hope that progress is being made towards a grand coalition between the centre-right CDU and CSU and the centre-left SPD. Deutsche Welle reports in brief:

Headway made in coalition talks

There is headway being made in the possible formation of a grand coaltion in Germany. The party heads of the Social Democrats and the two parties that make up the conservatives, the CDU and CSU, will meet in private talks with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Thursday. It is expected that, in the four-way meeting, the still unsolved issue of who will become chancellor will be discussed. CDU leader Angela Merkel said after exploratory talks on Wednesday the two sides had found common ground. Schroeder repeated after Wednesday's negotiations that he would not stand in the way of the formation of a stable coalition between the conservatives and his SPD.

Well, well, well. Wouldn't that be good and, umm, novel to be moving towards actually having a Chancellor and a government again? I get the feeling that the politicians have used up their patience and understanding-of-a-difficult-situation bonuses from the general public and they know it. It remains to be seen whether Schröder is only prepared to step aside if Merkel steps aside too, making way for a third to become Chancellor, or whether we will be seeing a woman Chancellor here in Germany for the first time ever. One thing's for certain, even if Merkel does become Chancellor at the head of a grand coalition, she will not be given the legroom to morph into Germany's version of Maggie Thatcher as so many here seem to have feared, and as so many British and American columnists and politicians seem to have wished so fervently for. A grand coalition will mean consensus and compromise have to be the order of the day and reforms will have to be gradual and carefully managed rather than sudden and sweeping. Depending on how it pans out, I'm not entirely convinced that that is such a bad thing either.

Deutsche Welle has more detailed coverage of the aspects of this latest development
here and here.