The campaigns by SPD, Green Party, CDU/CSU, FDP and Linke turned up the heat. Three days to go, several politicians already announced they would rally until the last booth closed (which is going to happen at 6.p.m. on sunday). There’re still a lot of people – about a third of the electorate leo electorate – who haven’t decided yet who to give their vote to. Compared to a half year ago, when polls foretold the death of the SPD/Green Party coalition. Today, CDU/CSU lead by only a few percents, which is tremendously dissappointing compared to the expectations of a bold change and strong, new government.
Currently, chances are people vote for a big coalition between SPD and CDU/CSU: In a recent poll, 34% are all for it. The politicians are nowhere near this kind of enthusiasm. Angela Merkel (CDU) and potential (first female) chancellor already ruled a big coalition out. On monday evening, during the so called “Elephant Round” (with heavyweights from all major parties participating) she said that her party never could form a new government with a party they have criticized as much as they did in the last years. A reason fair enough, but there’s another reason as well. If both of the big parties are not in the opposition, then who is? A good government needs a good opposition. It’s the same in economics (a field I have to confess I know less about than is good for me, but this I do understand): If there’s no competition, sooner or later you get sloppy and unmotivated, the product you’re selling is not as good as it could be, but hey, you’re the only one who has it, so who cares? People will buy your product anyway.
In politics, accordingly you need someone who leads and someone who checks – and thus does the balancing. This is true on both levels, within the government and the opposition as well as on the government-opposition level. Unfortunately, there are a lot of good examples if you look around in the world what happens when you have a too strong government and an inefficient or even non-existing opposition, if too much power concentration leads to the whole ship leaning towards one side. In Germany, a big coalition of SPD and CDU would probably leave the Green Party, FDP and Linke in the opposition. In the case of the latter, having a party with extreme positions unbalanced by other parties in the opposition is certainly not a healthy thing – it is questionable the two other parties will be doing a good job in that respect.
Another problem with a big coalition: Traditionally, the SPD or the CDU form a coalition with a smaller partner. In a coalition, the big party is the People’s party in the positive sense of the meaning, the small party is responsible for the
flavor. The major stream goes either more left or right, but it is the small party’s task to give it a certain spin, balancing the big partner’s motivation and aims in respect to reforms and new laws. Note that in the SPD/Green Party coalition the Green Party has a much smaller weight than the SPD, they never could push through everything they’d like to, but neither can the SPD – but the emphasis is on the latter’s political program in any case. In a big coalition, you have two People’s parties who are not used to have a tantamount partner, which would probably lead to even more friction than it is usually the case. In the worst case, the SPD and CDU would neutralize each other.
Trying to see it from another angle, there’s something politicians from both major parties certainly have thought about, but they’re not going to talk about it: If SPD and CDU form one government, they shoulder the responsebility equally. They couldn’t finger point as easily as they are used to do it one forming the government and the other being in the opposition. Most probably the concensus within the government would diminish to the smallest common denominator. In regard to the reforms which are neccessary to support the economy, a stalwart program needs to be pushed through, if nothing happens history could repeat itself. Germany already experienced a big coalition, and it didn’t go well. As it could happen again, SPD and CDU weren’t unable to tackle unemployment together. One result was that an opposition was formed outside the parliamentary structures and society was destabilized through radical factions as exemplified by the RAF, Germany’s left-wing terrorist group.
Ironically, Germany already had some kind of
informal big coalition in the last few years. Most political decisions have to be accepted by the government and the Bundesrat (federal council) . It consists of the 16 Bundesländer (federal states) and is dominated by the CDU/CSU. After Chancellor Schröder lost North Rhine-Westphalia, the CDU/CSU was in the position to block any reform the government proposed. Interestingly enough, Merkel couldn’t do just that but had to agree to some of the ideas the government tried to put through since they were going into the right direction. CDU/CSU would loose all credibility if they blocked the government’s reforms just to suggest the same reforms later. In a big coalition, they would have to do just the same, cooperate instead of block and blame the other side. Problem is, it did’t work in the 60s, chances are it won’t work now. No party likes to blame its own government if the situation doesn’t improve, so a gridlock is the most likely outcome.
Thing is, if the people vote for it, they want it.