Thursday, September 3, 2009

Groβe Koalition

[ Grand Coalition ]

To be completely honest, I was anticipating covering the election results that happened this past Sunday on that night, but things, as I later discovered, were a little more complicated. It is now Thursday, and I am still writing, deleting, researching, and questioning Germans over what is really going on.

What I thought was going to be one quick post has evolved into a bit more, and now I am dividing my findings about the current political scene here in Germany into three parts. I wanted to first address the current state that the government is here in Germany, and clarify the complexities of the voting system, and the unique set up that launched Merkel to become the first female chancellor in Germany. However, it would be foolish to address that now and not address the political tides that have changed since last Sunday in the regional elections, and shed a different light on the CDU party for the upcoming month before the National elections in late September. Another topic that deserved to be addressed completely separate as well was the very unique turn that Saarland took in last Sunday’s election, and how that reflects a very changing politics here in Germany.

So, before I share any findings and opinions on the present, I feel it is important for readers to understand what took place in Germany in 2005, and how those changes are effecting the current election.

In 2005, the CDU party, with chair Angela Merkel since 2000, was expected to have a clear domination in the national election. Commentators anticipated a clear CDU win, and a coalition with the FDP party to form a conservative cabinet in the German Bundestag. However, in the last month before the election, the support percentages for the CDU declined, and the party only won by a slim 1% margin.

In German government, no one particular party dominates in political ruling. In actuality, coalitions are formed between parties to form a majority in the Bundestag. In brief, since the CDU did not have a clear majority in the election, making it improbable to form the anticipated coalition with the FDP, a new coalition was formed between the CDU and the SPD. This was referred to as a Groβe Koalition, or a Grand Coalition. If you are squinting right now in confusion, don’t worry, because I was as well.

From reading the backgrounds of the partiesaren’t the CDU and the SPD in opposition on each other? This is where I first became baffled by the organization of the German government. The first image I had in my mind was imagining a coalition of Republicans and Democrats forming a union and then told to unanimously run the government as if they held majority together. It is true that the parties are in opposition of each other, but if the SPD had not formed a coalition with the CDU, then to create a majority, they would have formed a coalition with the Green party, as well as the leftist extremists, die Linke. What the parties had set up was a cordon sainitaire, which is a measure made by popular, central parties, even in opposition of each other, to join a coalition with each other to prevent the radical wing parties from having too much power within the government.

With Angela Merkel as the leader of the party with the highest popular vote – even after a slim margin - she had become the first female chancellor of Germany. Four years later, she is listed as the most powerful woman in the world, and has many accomplishments under her belt, and a generally positive approval rating. Currently, she is campaigning, which by some is said to be a natural win, for the next National election at the end of this month. It seems like a déjà vu, however, because in this last month before the elections, it seems that the political tides are changing again, and things could change for the CDU party and Germany.


  1. Really starting to appreciate our election process here in the States more and more ;)

    Maria K.

  2. you're such a dork writing about all of this! i love it! <3