The Cost of the Coalition

16/12/2013

Roberto Inclán is a Germanist

Several months after the elections of September 22, the names of those who will form the government coalition of Angela Merkel's third term as Chancellor of Germany have been announced. Both the Chancellor and her main coalition partner, Sigmar Gabriel, have had to overcome many obstacles in order to carry out their grand coalition project.

While the path has been somewhat clearer in the ranks of the CDU, critical voices have still been heard until the last moment. The Christian Social Union (CSU), their partner in Bavaria with Horst Seehofer as president, has expressed serious doubts about the economic demands of the covenant with the SPD, and even a group of young MPs of the CDU has questioned the pensions policy agreed upon. In spite of this, green light was given to the coalition agreement without a single dissenting vote at the convention of the Christian Democratic Party.

More painstaking was the road for the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany). After the disappointing election result obtained by the candidate Peer Steinbrück, Gabriel himself decided to take charge of the negotiations and managed to turn this clear defeat around and get the most out of it. Their own members have a very negative memory of the party's coalition with the CDU in Merkel's first government in 2005, and have demanded a consultation to the nearly 475,000 members of the Social Democratic Party, which has resulted in 75.9% of positive votes.

Having solved all these pitfalls, the two parties have negotiated the allocation of ministries with the main surprise that, for the first time a woman, Ursula von der Leyen (CDU), will take over Defence. Both the CDU and the SPD will take over six ministries each, while the CSU has been left out of the most important ones and will only manage three of the least relevant.

The agreement undoubtedly shows the high price that Merkel has had to pay for the five seats she needs to have an absolute majority and Sigmar Gabriel's success–now the new Vice Chancellor and Minister of Economy and Energy–without even standing for the election.

It now remains to be seen how many of the proposals in the draft coalition will be undertaken and the economic impact that these social measures will have on the citizens' pockets which, according to calculations of the German newspaper Die Welt could exceed 800 euros per person per year.