Both the Financial Times and The Economist hope that Angela Merkel will be able to break free of her 'grand coalition' with the left-leaning SPD after tomorrow's German elections. Latest opinion polls point to a race that is still too close to call. The CDU, when joined with the economically and socially liberal FDP, are one or two points within target of gaining a majority.
There are two principal reasons why the grand coalition should be replaced by a CDU-CSU-FDP coalition:
The grand coalition is bad for democracy
The Financial Times: "All German governments are coalitions, ruling by consensus. But it would be bad for the country, and bad for the principal parties, if the CDU and SPD were forced once again into a “grand” coalition. It limits their room for manoeuvre. More importantly, it discourages democratic debate, and encourages the splintering of support towards more extreme minority parties."
The Economist made exactly the same conclusion one week earlier: "Yoking together Germany’s two Volksparteien in one government tends to stifle the coherent, mainstream opposition that is essential to the cut-and-thrust of policymaking in any democracy. Deprived of choice, disgruntled voters tend to drift towards extremism or apathy, thereby weakening the big parties even more. Indeed, there is a growing risk that, with five parties always likely to win seats in the German parliament, it may become all but impossible to have anything other than a grand coalition. What ought to be an emergency arrangement might turn into a permanent one. That would not be good for democracy."
An alliance with the FDP would build a more dynamic German economy
The Economist believes that the FDP would be much better coalition partners for Frau Merkel: "The FDP is not only the most pro-business of the parties but also the most pro-American. It has also been the boldest in suggesting tax and welfare reforms. For all these reasons, if this newspaper had a vote in Germany’s election, it would cast it for the FDP, in the hope that it joins a coalition with Ms Merkel’s CDU."
Like Germany as a whole, Mrs Merkel has drifted leftwards since the last election. During the 2005 election a promise of radical tax reform saw an election-winning lead evaporate. "Next to Merkel, even a chameleon would blush," wrote Oliver Marc Hartwich. His evidence? This extraordinary quote from the German Chancellor: "Sometimes I'm a liberal, sometimes I'm a Christian socialist, sometimes I'm a conservative." She can be a campaigner for neoliberal reforms one day and a defender of the welfare state the next. She can campaign against climate change and then fight for the country’s car industry against new EU fuel efficiency rules. She can criticize the Pope in public and then speak about her deep Christian roots. Angela Merkel is everything to everyone – it only depends who she is talking to.
The Economist is correct to say that the FDP is by far the most economically liberal party but it is also true that the FDP has been moderating its position somewhat in recent times. The FDP leader Guido Westervelle (pictured) is most likely to become Foreign Minister. That is good for the Atlantic alliance but his energy is really needed in economic policy. German unemployment is predicted to hit 11% next year and the budget deficit will exceed $200bn.
Posted below is a video from Channel 4 on Chancellor Merkel's campaigning style: