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How do you govern elsewhere? In Germany, politics is “a matter of arithmetic”



“’That would be the end of the coalition!’ ‘There will be new elections!’ How many times have we heard these phrases in the history of the Federal Republic.” As the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, The strength of the agreement between the ruling parties is scrutinized almost daily by feverish German political commentators. And for good reason: without this type of alliance, it is almost impossible to govern Germany.

The government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, made up of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Liberals, has been in office since the end of 2021. At the time, the three parties – whose coalition is nicknamed “traffic light”, because of the colours associated with them – took several months to agree on a coalition contract. This non-binding document outlined the common objectives of the three parties, in order to “Building a foundation of trust” among voters, according to the terms used by the Day view.

Dispute, consensus, dispute again…

But “A coalition contract is not the Bible, which remains immutable no matter how the world evolves,” specifies the South German newspaper. It is likely to evolve over time – which often causes friction within the government. Olaf Scholz’s government, in fact, is regularly criticised for its difficulties in presenting a united front. “Coalition politics is trapped in a vicious circle: first you argue, then you agree on a minimum consensus, before you start arguing again,” describe The day of the week. At the beginning of July, the simple preparation of the federal budget for the year 2025 gave rise to new questions about the sustainability of the “traffic light” alliance.

Germany is, however, less prone to political instability than other parliamentary democracies, such as Italy or Belgium. The reason? Its constitutional framework, designed for “to learn lessons (from the problems encountered) by the Weimar Republic (between 1918 and 1933)”. As recalled by the Tagesspiegel, The dissolution of the Assembly only takes place in exceptional circumstances, and the deputies cannot dismiss the chancellor without having the guarantee of being able to elect another. “The basic law focuses on representativeness and stability,” comment on the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Partitioned coalitions

This forces the parties across the Rhine to find points of agreement, continues the title in a second article. Because in Germany, “Politics is above all a matter of arithmetic” : it is difficult to achieve a majority without adding the votes of different parties. Before the “traffic light” coalition came to power, the conservatives of the CDU-CSUAngela Merkel have long been allied with the social democrats of the SPD.

In this context, some parties are setting rules for choosing their partners. The Christian right, in particular, officially refuses to ally itself with the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) and with the radical left of Die Linke. Recently, its leader, Friedrich Merz, assured that he also wanted to apply this “partitioning” at BSW, a new party created by the former left-wing leader Sahra Wagenknecht.

But in an increasingly polarized country, the very notion of “partitioning” is criticized, estimated The Time. Regarding the extreme right, “The so-called compartmentalization apparently worked for years, because the AfD was a relatively negligible party.” Since this is no longer the case, the CDU-CSU has allied itself with it several times at the local level. Without, however, taking the step at the federal level.

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