Saturday, November 6, 2010

The First Female German Chancellor Leads a Bipartisan Coalition

The First Female German Chancellor Leads a Bipartisan Coalition
Besides being the first female German chancellor, Angela Merkel gets to be a part of a great political event: she the head of the largest German political coalition since the 1960s.  This coalition, or goal-oriented cooperative partnership (Sampanis 14), between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD), is an affiliation between the two largest political parties in the country.
The party coalition is one based upon a realist drive for power.  The Christian Democrats and the Socialist Democrats both want control of parliament, as would any sizable political entity in Germany.  In this case, both parties saw that their best chance at control is to temporarily give up a drive for complete domination.  In the period leading up to the election, there had been a lack of a strong majority, which ultimately gives way to parliamentary standstill.  Due to current conditions in the German state, which will be touched on later, stagnation is not an option at this point in time.  If there is not a party with enough parliamentary majority, the system becomes a gridlock and very little can be achieved (Bernstein).  In order to get things rolling, the CDU and SPD entered into a coalition agreement.  Though they are really two separate parties, they agree to act as one.  This will create the needed parliamentary majority to get legislation passed.  The agreement is said to last until the next chancellor election.
Because Angela Merkel, the Christian Democrat leader, has been chosen to lead as chancellor, her party has been forced to give eight of the fourteen ministries to the control of Social Democratic members, four of which are considered crucial within the power scheme (Bernstein).  Each German ministry acts like a specialized committee, expected to maintain its respective area of expertise.  This agreement has been made in order to keep a balance of power within the bipartisan coalition, as the German chancellor still remains very influential and powerful politically.
Merkel is a conservative, and is being looked to for some minor reforms to the German economy.  Economic growth has flat-lined and unemployment remains high, contributing to further impeded growth (Bernstein).  One reason for this might be the German social welfare system.  Some contend that it is too charitable.  Under the current legislation, a family of five, with two unemployed parents, could receive free rent, utilities, and reimbursement of any major appliance purchases, as well as a $1560 stipend for an unlimited amount of time (Bernstein and Landler).  When this generous social welfare system is coupled with massively powerful and inflexible labor unions, a hindrance on German economic growth is created which in turn negatively affects the rest of the European Union.  Germany may not be the weakest link, but with its economic output at approximately one third of the EU (Landler), its quivering legs account for unrest in the multinational business community.
            Merkel is expected to make some small reforms which would place slightly more economic power in the hands of business and slightly less in the state.  Traditionally, the German psyche has been one dependent upon the state for stability.  Unlike the United States or Britain, whose faith in business has allowed the economy to be more self-regulatory, Germans feel more comfortable when the state has a tight hold on economic matters.  From this liberal perspective, some backlash may occur when the German personality has to let go a little bit of its security from the state, and place more confidence in business.  Among Merkel’s other reforms are revisions to the labor market’s strict unionized rules, which are expected to be highly contested by labor affiliated inducers (Bernstein and Landler).
            Though many people, including Merkel, are optimistic about the outcome of the election and the new government, opposition still remains.  The CDU and the SPD are two parties very different in philosophy and values.  The Christian Democrats are conservative, somewhere right of center, and the Social Democrats are liberal, settling somewhat left of the political center (Unlikely).  Some think that since the parties don’t particularly care for each other, they will not be able to work together, and this will likely mean an end to the coalition within the next two years (Bell).  Due to the ultra-competitive nature of today’s politics, the two parties could conflict enough to cause a breakdown in the coalition.  If this occurs, an even greater legislative gridlock could occur as the result of a divided majority.
            It is likely, however, that Merkel and the coalition will be successful in their venture of reform.  History tends to repeat itself, and in the 1960s, when a similar coalition was formed under similar circumstances, it proved successful.  Many are skeptical of whether Merkel will be able to implement sufficient economic reforms when, as a result of the coalition agreement, the economic minister is a member of the SPD.  In the 1960s, this was the case as well, and Germany emerged from the situation a stronger state (Unlikely).  
Also, as the largest producer in the European Union, Germany has somewhat of a responsibility to the international community.  If stagnation continues, a host of other problems will likely surface, placing a hindrance upon the rest of the union.  This places immense pressure on the success of the coalition, and will be enough to keep the CDU and SPD working together.  The international system of politics is now very much interconnected, and disruption in any of the players can mean downturn for those states who are in some way dependent.  In the unlikely event the coalition does not turn the German economy toward growth, it would not be surprising if other nations such as France and Britain did not step forth to pledge aid in helping Germany stabilize in forward progress.
Angela Merkel has taken hold of the German government at a crucial time.  Economically and politically, the country has been is unmoving.  Through a coalition of the two largest political parties, she will attempt to lead a movement of minor reforms, swinging the economy back into shape.  Stabilization of German economics will in turn allow other states to rest easier.  Merkel will have to remain strongly aligned with keeping the coalition in cooperation; too much deviation from coalition goals may cause a split between the parties and ruin chances for growth.

Works Cited
Bernstein, Richard, and Mark Landler. "Only Marginal Reforms are Expected in Germany." The New York Times 12 Oct. 2005. 29 Oct. 2005 <>. 
Bernstein, Richard. "Deal Clears Way For First Woman to Lead Germany." The New York Times 11 Oct. 2005. 30 Oct. 2005 <>. 
Bethany, Bell. "Merkel Triumphant - But at a Price." BBC News 11 Oct. 2005. 30 Oct. 2005 <>. 
"Germany's Politics." The Economist 14 Oct. 2005. 28 Oct. 2005 <>. 
Landler, Mark. "German Business Confidence at 5-Year High." The New York Times 25 Oct. 2005. 29 Oct. 2005 <>. 
"Unlikely Chancellor." Editorial. The Sacramento Bee 16 Oct. 2005, Early ed. 

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