• Germany edition
 
How is Germany faring in political limbo?
Chancellor Angela Merkel with SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel. Photo: DPA

How is Germany faring in political limbo?

Published: 19 Nov 2013 15:29 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Nov 2013 15:29 GMT+01:00

If a week is a long time in politics, eight weeks without agreeing on a new government is surely an eternity.

Since Germany's election on September 22nd, Merkel's Conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) have been inching slowly towards a deal.

But time does not stand still waiting for Germany to get its act together, and the stalemate is beginning to be felt.

Since September, Germany has effectively been run by the pre-election government, albeit with a dramatically reduced mandate.

Finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, for instance, found himself more or less powerless when forced to travel to Brussels last week for a meeting of EU finance ministers without a mandate to agree a common plan to deal with ailing European banks. 

Schäuble opposes using funds from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to shore up failing banks, while his future coalition partners in the SPD support the plan - also backed by the European Central Bank and several member states.

The new coalition's tentative draft agreement states: “The CDU/CSU and SPD will consult together on the planned measures, decisions and legal initiatives of individual ministries. This also applies to voting at European level." 

If Schäuble must consult the coalition on every point of European fiscal policy, the minister could find himself severely limited in his ability to push forward his own agenda abroad. Many see this uncertainty on a European level as a threat to Germany's traditional leadership role in negotiations.

'Civil servants know what to do'

Despite the impasse, government ministries told The Local their ministers were carrying on as normal.

The education ministry said their minister, Johanna Wanka, had been busy in the coalition negotiations and had appointments most days this week in Berlin, Potsdam and Munich.

And outgoing health minister Daniel Bahr, whose party the FDP was voted out of parliament in September, recently attended a conference in Washington. Meanwhile outgoing economics minister Philipp Rösler, also of the FDP, travelled to Paris on Tuesday for a ministerial conference of the International Energy Agency.

German civil servants can be relied upon to run the show smoothly, said Professor Michael Wohlgemuth, director at think-tank Open Europe Berlin, while the work done by ministries would have eased off over the last two months.

“In some ministries, especially those that used to be run by FDP ministers, the workload has gone down dramatically – whereas anxiety is high on who will keep what kind of job. It is similar with ministries likely to go to the SPD, such as the foreign office and economics," he said.

But Professor Wohlgemuth added: “The people at the finance ministry, who have worked extra hours for years now, are still under stress with EU banking union and keeping track of all the extra billions of expenditure that the new coalition put on its wish-list.”

While Merkel's Conservatives received a ringing endorsement in the election, they fell just short of an absolute majority.

After negotiations with the Green Party failed, the Social Democrats emerged as the most obvious coalition partner.

But the SDP are not overly enthusiastic about the idea of going into government with the Conservatives, a move that cost them considerable support during the last so-called "grand coalition" between 2005 and 2009.

As a result, the party has entered negotiations determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past, and is taking a firm line in its demands for a nationwide minimum wage of €8.50, an extension of gay rights and measures to fight old age poverty. "We will not pursue politics for a second time in which the SPD again breaches its self-concept," their leader Sigmar Gabriel vowed.

Additional reporting by Louise Osborne and Tom Bristow

READ MORE: Merkel and SPD agree on women's quota

For more stories about Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Kate Ferguson (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Boko Haram claim to be holding German hostage
Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau. Photo: DPA

Boko Haram claim to be holding German hostage

Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau claimed in a new video obtained by AFP on Friday to be holding a German national, who was kidnapped in northern Nigerian earlier this year. READ  

Presented by Home Exchange
Travel & live like a local with Home Exchange
A property listed in Costa Rica on the Home Exchange website. Photo: Home Exchange

Travel & live like a local with Home Exchange

Swap your home, save a fortune, and have a great time in the process. The Local finds why thousands of people from around the world have embraced the Home Exchange phenomenon. READ  

Germany's estate agents plan strike action
Photo: DPA

Germany's estate agents plan strike action

First it was the pilots, then train drivers - now Germany's real estate agents are threatening to go on strike. But their call to arms has been met with sneers rather than sympathy. READ  

Finger slicer's insurance scam fails
Ralf-Werner arriving in court last week. Photo: DPA

Finger slicer's insurance scam fails

An insurance salesman who sawed off his own finger and thumb to claim insurance was given a suspended sentence by a court in northern Germany on Friday. READ  

PKK: banned in Germany, allies in Iraq
Kurdish demonstrators at a rally in Düsseldorf in October. Photo: DPA

PKK: banned in Germany, allies in Iraq

Germany finds itself in a complicated relationship with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). At home, police must investigate anyone who flies the flag, but in the Middle East they are the best hope of beating back the Islamic State. READ  

Quiz
Will our Halloween quiz give you a fright?
Walpurgis Night in the Harz. Photo: DPA

Will our Halloween quiz give you a fright?

Germany is home to a plethora of haunted castles and has a huge stock of gruesome stories. How well do you know the spooky side of the Germans? READ  

Retail sales show biggest drop for seven years
Photo: DPA

Retail sales show biggest drop for seven years

German shoppers cut back on their spending in September at the fastest rate for seven years, official data showed on Friday. READ  

Fall of the Wall - 25 years
'I'm leaving for the West, who's coming?'
Engels at the spot where he drove through the Wall and in hospital in 1963 after being shot. Photo: Nick Allen/Fotoarchiv Alex Waidmann Berlin

'I'm leaving for the West, who's coming?'

There are many of tales of ingenious and well-thought out escape plans from people desperate to flee from East to West Berlin. Wolfgang Engels’ wasn’t one of them. It was, however, one of the most daring. READ  

Police probe pupils who made Nazi salutes
Pupils used WhatsApp to share messages which are police are investigating. Photo: DPA

Police probe pupils who made Nazi salutes

Police are investigating pupils at a school in Saxony-Anhalt for incitement of the people and use of banned symbols after teenagers allegedly made the Hitler salute. READ  

Time running out for refugees in Berlin school
Representatives of the refugees at a press conference last week. Photo: DPA

Time running out for refugees in Berlin school

An ultimatum for the remaining refugees and their supporters to leave an occupied school in Berlin, which has been the scene of protests for months, will expire at midnight on Friday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Travel and have a great time with Home Exchange
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles from British Airways
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Want to study in Germany? These are the subjects to choose
Photo: DPA
Society
Germans are wide of the mark on immigration
Photo: DPA
Society
Halloween: Where are the spookiest spots?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Who wants to work in Germany? A third of the world
Photo: DPA
Society
'We can't allow a proxy war on German streets'
Sponsored Article
International School on the Rhine: a legacy
Photo: DPA
Society
QUIZ: How well do you know Germany?
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
11 things Germans are afraid of...
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,513
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd