The German Question

Angela Merkel hasn’t given up hope on forming a Grand Coalition government in Germany:

German opposition leader Angela Merkel said she’ll pursue talks with both Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s Social Democrats about a “grand coalition” and with the Free Democrats and Greens on a three-way alliance, as she bids to form a government after an inconclusive election.

“We have agreed to hold a further round of talks to determine whether or not there’s sufficient common ground,” Merkel, 51, told reporters in Berlin today after a first meeting with Schroeder, 61. She said talks with the Greens will also go ahead even though “the differences in our programs are huge.”

Maybe Merkel really is the German Margaret Thatcher – that last line was classic British understatement. Also, the odds of a GC government look slimmer with this news:

Members of the Left Party in the new German Bundestag are backing Gerhard Schroeder’s bid to remain chancellor, despite his Social Democrats (SPD) coming second in weekend elections, press reports said Thursday.

The SPD and its Greens coalition partners lack the votes to keep Schroeder in office, but the votes of the Left would give them an absolute majority in the new Bundestag when it meets to choose the chancellor on October 18.

Schroeder has already said he won’t make any deal with the Left Party. But even without a formal SDP-Green-Left coalition, Left ministers could still vote to keep Schroeder as Chancellor.

Of course, no matter what happens, don’t expect any big reforms any time soon:

“It’s true,” said the economist Thomas Straubhaar, president of the Institute for International Economics in Hamburg. “Germany has been governed by two social democratic parties.” One of them is the actual Social Democratic Party, with its 19th-century origins in Marxist notions of social justice. The other is the Christian Democratic Union, and its Bavarian sister, the Christian Social Union, with their origins in 19th-century Christian notions of social justice.