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Angela Merkel is not officially chancellor. Her role in calling new elections is limited. The power to call new elections is up to President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

However, the Independent reports Steinmeier called on the parties to “reconsider their attitudes” in order to avert a political crisis in what has long been the most stable country in the EU.

“I expect the parties to make the formation of a new government possible in the foreseeable future,” Mr Steinmeier said in a televised statement, adding that the parties had a responsibility that “cannot be simply given back to the voters”.

Election Procedures

There are three circumstances that allow for early elections.

  1. Failure to elect a chancellor in three rounds of voting
  2. A decision by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier not to accept Merkel as a chancellor of a minority government and then to dissolve the parliament
  3. A vote of no confidence.

The first cannot happen because on the third round of voting, the person with the most votes wins. It does not take an outright majority.

Minority Government Issues

Eurointelligence has a nice synopsis of why a minority government will not last long (emphasis mine).

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Because the Greens have already announced that they will not be part of a minority government, CDU/CSU would be on their own with only 246 out of 709 seats, which is barely more than a third of the votes. We don't think it is possible that Merkel can triangulate between the parties for any length of time, securing shifting majorities - with the FDP on the budget, with the SPD on Europe, and with the Greens and the SPD on climate change. This is not how parliamentary systems work.

Minority governments can be stable as we see in the UK and Spain, but the stability depends on a willingness by smaller, often regional, parties to support the government.

Another problem is that a minority government would strengthen the AfD, which may from time to time vote tactically with the government. Together, CDU/CSU and AfD would actually have a majority. Just imagine the sight of such a voting coalition emerging.

If you think this through, it is very hard to see a route along which Merkel remains chancellor. The only option we could see is a new election in which both the CDU/CSU and FDP emerge stronger than now. Merkel and Lindner could then be able to agree a deal without the Greens. At the moment CDU/CSU/FDP are some 39 seats short of a majority. It's not impossible, but we have seen very few polls supporting such a construction. Much will depend on how positively or negatively the public reacts to the FDP's decision.

Another possibility is a grand coalition under a different CDU leader, in the hopes of enticing the SPD into such a construction.

Merkel departure, while likely eventually, is clearly not imminent. The CDU/CSU may decide to get her elected chancellor, and then produce political chaos, hoping to shift the blame to the opposition parties. We think that such a strategy is plausible, but that it will ultimately fail spectacularly if attempted. Chaos reverberates against governing parties. Then again, never underestimate Merkel's absolute will to govern. After 12 years, she acts as though the job is hers by right.

One way or the other, we are approaching the end of Merkel. Our expectation now would be a new election in the spring of 2019, followed by a grand coalition under new leadership of all three coalition partners CDU, CSU and SPD.

2018 or 2019?

Steinmeier will accept Merkel as the head of a minority government, but will Merkel go along?

Even if Merkel is willing, a vote of no confidence would do her in.

More Merkel Hypocrisy

Meanwhile, note the further hypocrisy of it all.

Merkel will not want any policy that takes AfD support to pass.

Imagine Trump turning down votes from Congressional Democrats. That's the kind of foolishness we are discussing here.

For more on Merkel's blatant hypocrisy, please consider Who's Worse for the Environment: Merkel or Trump?.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock