Germans face an unwelcome return to the polls for another national election after coalition talks collapsed Sunday, leaving the European powerhouse in political limbo.
After four weeks of negotiations, the free-market liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) exited talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), Bavaria’s Christian Social Union, and the Greens.
FDP leader Christian Lindner said there was “no basis of trust” between the parties, who had “no shared vision” of the country’s direction following September’s vote.
“It is better not to rule than to rule badly,” he said.
The parties reportedly failed to find agreement on issues including tax, the environment, and asylum policies. One sticking point was whether the families of Syrian refugees should be allowed to join them in Germany.
“I will do everything to ensure that this country comes out well through this difficult time,” Merkel said Monday.
The chancellor – whose CDU won the most seats in September, but not enough to govern alone – met with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier Monday to discuss solutions to the impasse.
These include a new election, a minority CDU-led government, or the CDU forming another grand coalition with the outgoing center-left Social Democrats (SPD), however the SPD has so far ruled out any arrangement.
A Green MP and member of the negotiating team said Monday new elections were the most likely outcome.
“At the end of the day, we could expect [a new election] around Easter,” Jürgen Trittin told Deutschlandfunk radio.
The four parties had hoped to form a “Jamaica coalition” – so named because their individual party colors mirrored the yellow, black and green of the Jamaican flag.
The SPD is eager not to repeat the experiment of governing with the CDU, after losing 40 seats in September’s election, although the CDU’s losses were even greater, hemorrhaging 65 seats.
Both parties were blindsided by the sudden rise of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party (AfD), which stripped votes from both leading parties and mobilized former non-voters to win 94 seats in its first election.
The AfD said in a statement Monday that the collapse of the talks was a “good day for Germany,” and the party’s parliamentary group co-leader Alice Weidel called on Merkel to stand down as chancellor.