The case against a ‘grand coalition’ in Germany

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Another ‘grand coalition’ between left and right following the 2009 elections in Germany would radicalise the political system, argues Eurointelligence director and associate editor of the Financial Times Wolfgang Münchau on the Eurointelligence website.

Münchau describes how an “almost unbearable urge for a consensus of the centre” provided the momentum to form a grand coalition government in Germany in 2005. 

With voter preferences unlikely to change significantly ahead of next year’s general election (which is expected to be held in late September), some policymakers and analysts are already resigned to the inevitability of a renewed coalition, observes the author. 

Münchau deems such coalitions to be “morally wrong”. According to him, alliances between major parties inevitably result in the lack of a politically strong opposition party and “strengthen the radical fringe”. 

Elsewhere, grand coalitions have seen the position of smaller parties upgraded as the major ones lose ground, says Münchau, citing the example of the Netherlands, whose major parties are no longer able to form a coalition. 

Münchau believes the German left-wing party ‘Die Linke’ will progressively catch up with the German Social Democrats. “Growth processes like that of the left will almost exclusively be accomplished in opposition,” he argues. “Protest parties which suddenly have to assume the responsibility of government will quickly become disenchanted.” 

If the present coalition between Social and Christian Democrats continues, Münchau “wouldn’t be surprised” if the right of the political spectrum saw the formation of a new party, which he says would not necessarily be radical or neo-Nazi but may well adopt a eurosceptic position and campaign against immigration. 

Münchau points out that in normal circumstances, the opposition acts as “a government-in-waiting”, and even if it cannot fully implement its programme once in office, a change of power always implies a change in politics. But in Germany, there is unlikely to be a real change of power in 2009, he fears.

Münchau concludes that “if policymakers really want to assume responsibility, they should not automatically back a grand coalition out of reflex or convenience”. “They will have to realise that it is necessary to consider the political long-term consequences of such a step,” he adds.  

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