Following last week’s preliminary deal agreement, the Social Democratic Party will vote Sunday as to whether it should pursue coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
If it does, it will signal the end of the country’s 119 day spell without a government. If the SPD vote against the talks, it will almost certainly trigger fresh elections that could cut short Merkel’s 12 year reign as Germany’s leader.
Before the current spell, Germany’s average time with a caretaker government in charge was only 40 days. So how is it, that the cornerstone of the European Union, which has often dictated how smaller EU countries govern, can’t seem to get its own political house in order?
Despite an ongoing stalemate in the Bundestag, Germany’s economy is still firing on all cylinders. The Munich-based Ifo Institute for Economic Research recently published a report that claims gross domestic product is set to grow by 2.6 percent this year, and while business morale dipped slightly last month, it still is close to a record high.
This positive outlook was backed up by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which said employment is expected to expand and house prices to rise.
Not breaking records (yet)
Germany is not the first, and most likely won’t be last, country to find themselves without a governing body.
In fact, last year the Netherlands needed 225 days to cobble together a coalition, and Belgium went a staggering 589 days without an elected government from 2010 and 2011. Perhaps Germany needs to take a lead from its smaller neighbors and do without a government for a little while longer.
Everyday life for Germans is almost entirely unaffected by the politicians’ failure to form a coalition. State governments are functioning as normal and remain able to make decisions on a local level. It appears in this case, that no news is bad news, for Merkel, that is.
A poll carried out at the end of 2017 found nearly half of Germans want the chancellor to step down early. The survey by YouGov and DPA showed that 47 percent of participants said they would like Merkel to leave office before completing a fourth term. In comparison, a poll carried out by the same research institute in early October found only 36 percent were against Merkel staying on.
The European Union
On the European front, things are also trundling along uninterrupted, although French president Emmanuel Macron is likely frustrated that he can’t continue his efforts to advance his EU agenda without getting the go-ahead from Merkel. The two have repeatedly professed their common interests and vowed to deepen their partnership since Macron became president.
While the four month leaderless spell is remarkable in a German context, many other European countries have gone far longer without a government in charge.