Monday, October 03, 2005

Towards a Grand Coalition

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | German CDU pushes leadership bid

Slowly, slowly, slowly it looks as if it is the CDU that is gaining the initiative in the war of nerves over how the coming government of Germany will be formed.

While it was undoubtedly the SPD and, most notably, Gerhard Schröder that won the election campaign, there is no avoiding the conclusion that they lost the election and that CDU/CSU with Angela Merkel come out on top.

On election night, Schröder was intoxicated with his short-term campaign success, failed to see the bigger story, and performed on TV in a way that might well go down in German political history.

I watched his performance live in Berlin and was astonished. To me, it was a moment that brought memories back of the fanmous "scream" of Howard Dean after one of the Democratic primaries in the US. The TV pictures of that event effectively ended the Dean candidacy. And it might well be that the Schröder TV performance on election night will be seen as paving the way for his departure.

In contrast, Angela Merkel seems to have kept her head cool and maneuvered to secure the necessary internal support in order to make the clear external demands. Initially, it was a hell of an uphill battle, but it might well be that she has passed the worst and that the going will get easier from now on.

In all likelyhood, Germany is heading for a grand coalition between the CDU/CSU and the SPD.

But Schröder still seems to be determined to prevent that it will be lead by Merkel. He wants her scalp before he departs the scene. He can't accept the combination of the collapse of the red-green alterntive in German politics and the chancellorship snatched from him by her.

It looks increasingly personal - and that's never good politics.

After the Dresden election yesterday, which increased the CDU/CSU margin in the Bundestag, things are likely to speed up, although it's unlikely that there will be a resolution until the new Bundestag meets on October 18th and the entire thing might well drag on into November.

Europe needs a reinvigorated leadership, and Berlin has to be an important part of that.