German Chancellor Angela Merkel's attempt to put together a previously untried government with two smaller and ideologically diverse parties has collapsed. Germany's election on Sept. 24 left only two politically plausible combinations with a majority in parliament, and the breakdown of coalition talks Sunday night appears to have removed one of those—a coalition of Merkel's conservative Union bloc, the pro-business Free Democrats, and the traditionally left-leaning Greens. Her partners in the outgoing government, the center-left Social Democrats, said Monday they would not join a new Merkel administration, per the AP, a stance the party has repeated since it slumped to a disastrous defeat in Germany's Sept. 24 election. No other politically plausible combination of parties has a majority in parliament. More on the unprecedented situation:
- What the president says: "We now face a situation that we haven't had in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, so in nearly 70 years," President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters after meeting Merkel. It is Steinmeier who will have to decide whether to pave the way for a minority government or a new election. "This is the moment at which all parties should pause and reconsider their position," he said. But there was little immediate indication his call would be heeded, and a new election looked increasingly likely.
- What Merkel says: If neither the Free Democrats nor the Social Democrats budge, that leaves as the only options another election or a minority government—a setup that has never been tried in post-World War II Germany and one that Merkel says she would be "very skeptical" to lead. "I don't have a minority government in my plans," Merkel said in an interview Monday with ARD public television's Brennpunkt program, per the AP.
- Who's currently in charge? Merkel's outgoing coalition government with the Social Democrats remains in place on a caretaker basis until the current parliament has elected a chancellor or a new election is held. There is no constitutional limit on how long a caretaker government can remain in place. The longest it has taken so far from an election to a new government being sworn in is 86 days, in 2013.
- Why is the situation so complicated? Germany's political landscape has become increasingly crowded since the 1970s, when there were only three political groups in parliament. There are now six. That has made forming traditional center-left and center-right alliances increasingly difficult.
- Where to point fingers: At the Guardian, Philip Oltermann writes that "cocksure" Free Democratic party head Christian Lindner was blamed by the Green party and Merkel's Christian Democrats for the collapse of coalition talks, "but in the coming weeks German media will have to ask whether the real reason for the political paralysis ... ultimately lies with another politician: Angela Merkel." Deutsche Welle explains that in the absence of a majority coalition, the constitution would require Steinmeier to nominate a chancellor for the Bundestag to vote on. "If she fails to gain a sufficient majority, her loss of power will come even sharper into focus," writes Oltermann.
- What the "Jamaica coalition" was tussling over: The Washington Post notes that the potential coalition had been so-dubbed because the three parties' respective colors match those of the Jamaican flag. As for what they were debating over the past few weeks, "asylum, tax, and environmental policies" were big topics.
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