Since the German election is tomorrow, this is my last chance to post a prediction.
I think it will be … A Union-FDP coalition minority government, the first minority government in the history of the Bundesrepublik.
Here’s what we know to almost a moral certainty: Merkel will be chancellor again. There’s no way the CDU/CSU permanent coalition ("Union") will fail to come in first. Further, it seems highly unlikely that the SPD (which will surely come in second) will poll high enough to form reasonable countervailing coalition force. The only real way you can imagine the SPD forming the government is if it forms a coalition with the FDP and the Greens (the so-called "traffic light coalition" – Red-Yellow-Green), and that seems unlikely. In terms of raw voting power, the most sensible coalition is naturally a replay of the current "Grand Coalition" – where the two major parties (center-right Union and social democratic SPD) govern together. But I don’t think that will happen again this time for the simple reason that the SPD recognizes that participating in such a government – certainly while Merkel is in charge – is seriously eroding their legitimacy. Merkel just co-opts their contributions for her own party – always finding a way to sell them to the more conservative backbenchers – to they point where they’re seen as pointless at best, sellouts at worst. They will want to go their own way, form the opposition for a while, as a way of recapturing their legitimacy.
The problem with that is that Union alone certainly won’t win enough seats to form a majority government. The FDP is their natural coalition partner, but the two together seem unlikely to gain enough votes to form a majority either. Unless they’re willing to let the dreaded AfD – the right populists – in to government, the only feasible plan would be the "Jamaica coalition" (Black-yellow-green – i.e. Union-FDP-Green Party) … and that hardly seems feasible.
So – I predict that Germany gets its first minority government. Union and the FDP will win enough to be just barely shy of a majority. The SPD will offer them a minority government, because it wants to be the official opposition more than it wants to be in government again in another Grand Coalition. Union and the FDP don’t want to meet Green Party coalition demands, and the SPD would prefer to form the opposition to a minority government than a majority, however unstable. Best of all, the most uncomfortable result of a grand coalition (the AfD is the official opposition – with right of first response in the Bundestag – since they seem most likely to come in third) would be avoided: the AfD would not get the spotlight and associated legitimacy it craves.
No, I won’t do that – but I will predict relative rankings:
- Union (CDU/CSU)
- Green Party
- Die Linke