The Corner

Good and — Potentially Bad — News for Merkel

The results in Germany’s election so far have sent two conflicting messages, one very positive for Angela Merkel and her party and one that’s very worrying for her existing governing coalition.

Merkel’s Christian Democrats now have 42.5 percent of the vote, much better than opinion polls had indicated. She has led her party to such a good result that there is an outside chance she could govern alone, with her party winning an absolute majority of seats.

But that can only happen if two smaller parties fall below the 5 percent of the vote that is required for any party to enter parliament. Right now, her Free Democratic party coalition partner has been smashed, losing a full ten percentage points from its 2009 showing and now getting only 4.6 percent of the vote. The new upstart anti-Euro party, Alternative for Deutschland, is at 4.9 percent in exit polls and may or may not enter parliament. If they do make the threshold, Merkel won’t be able to govern alone and she will have four unpleasant choices:

1) Govern in coalition with the left-wing Social Democrats, as she did from 2005 to 2009. That would produce a stable majority, but the last time it was an unhappy marriage for both parties, filled with bickering and name-calling.

2) Govern with Alternative for Deutschland. This is an unappetizing possibility, given that the Alternative has said it would only enter a coalition if Merkel compromised on her support for the euro and opposed future bailouts of insolvent euro-zone countries.

3) Govern with the Greens, a party that lost significant support in this election thanks to its nanny-state plaform (forcing school children to go without meat for lunch one day a week, for one) and support for higher taxes. It’s unlikely the two parties could come together on a common platform, but stranger things have happened.

4) Form a minority government with just her party calling the shots. She would have to rely on support issue-by-issue on other parties, especially the Alternative, a highly unstable basis for making decisions.

Results are still coming in, so it’s unclear which of the above scenarios is most likely.

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