Merkel's Coalition Partner On The Brink Of Disaster

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Jan. 6 2012 4:53 PM

Merkel's Coalition Partner On The Brink Of Disaster

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FDP leader Philipp Rosler (R) and Greek finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos (L).

Photo by LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images

One sublet in the eurodrama that doesn't get as much attention as it should is the continuing collapse of the Free Democratic Party in Germany, junior partners in Angela Merkel's coalition.

Modern-day Germany, to review, has what amounts to a five party system. There's the Christian Democrats (CDU), as the traditional big center-right party. Then you have the Social Democrats (SPD), the traditional big center-left party. The Christian Democrats are generally aligned with the Free Democrats (FDP), who are a more strictly pro-business party. The Social Democrats are generally aligned with the Greens, who are Green. And then there's The Left, an amalgamation of East German ex-communists and rebels from the Social Democrats who objected to Gerhard Schröder's neoliberal turn. In the 2005 election, the ruling SPD-Green coalition basically ran against an implicit CDU-FDP coalition. But the Left got enough votes that neither coalition had a majority. So the CDU formed a coaltion with the SPD. Then came the 2009 elections in which the CDU and SPD, who'd been governing together, ended up running against each other. But everyone knew that the CDU would win. The big question was whether the FDP would gain enough votes to allow for a CDU-FDP properly right-wing coalition, and there was even some talk that perhaps Angela Merkel would prefer to "lose" and continue with a centrist grand coalition. Be that as it may, the FDP did great, surging to 14.6 percent of the vote and putting a CDU-FDP coalition in office. But ever since then, it's been a series of debacles for the FDP and the way they're polling now if the election were held tomorrow they wouldn't get any seats in parliament at all. That means that even though Angela Merkel is fairly popular, she's arguably in a very tenuous political position. That, in turn, forms part of the backdrop to her government's entire approach to the crisis.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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