On September 21, 2017, millions of Germans went to the polls to renew the country’s Bundestag, and with it, have a shot at electing a new chancellor. Angela Merkel, the incumbent, has been in office in 2005, and was running once again to win another four years leading the country’s chancellery. However, the election results were inconclusive and a tough path was set to form a government that could command the confidence of a majority of MPs.
Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) came first, trailed by the Social Democrats led by Martin Schulz. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) finished third, garnering nearly 13%, becoming the first right wing populist and eurosceptic party to be seated in the Bundestag in decades. The Free Democrats, Leftists, Greens, and Bavarian Social Christians (the CDU’s Bavarian sister party) also gained seats in parliament.
Almost immediately, the SPD announced that they would not seek to renew their grand coalition with Merkel and the CDU/CSU, forcing Merkel to resort to other parties to form her government. Given the fact that Merkel had discarded any coalition agreement between the AfD and Left Party, she had to resort to allying with the liberal Free Democrats and environmentalist Greens. The talks soon broke apart however, as no consensus was reached regarding migration and climate issues. The FDP leadership also cited a failure to build a common vision as a reason why the talks failed.
After Germany’s political future was thrown into disarray by the collapse of the only viable coalition and the SPD’s reluctance to negotiate with Merkel, the German President pleaded the Social Democrat leadership to reconsider their position, and join the CDU at the negotiating table. After a narrow vote by the party’s congress, they agreed, and went on to the first rounds of preliminary talks with their Christian Democrat counterparts.
Now, it seems the talks have borne fruit, and a coalition deal has been reached. Merkel however, is set to cede key ministries to the SPD, giving them a greater role in her government. According to the latest press reports concerning the CDU-SPD talks, the Social Democrats are set to gain control of the finance, labour, and foreign ministries. This will put them at the helm of deciding vital issues such as Germany’s contributions to the EU’s budget, labor rights, and their relationships with other countries.