Angela Merkel’s Government Crumpling, Ousting Looms
A dispute in Angela Merkel’s coalition over migration policy has swiftly escalated into the biggest tests of her Chancellorship.
The clash has opened a rift at the heart of her camp, between her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its CSU Bavarian sister party. How the conflict is resolved will determine the German Chancellor’s fate, possibly as soon as Monday.
Horst Seehofer, Ms. Merkel’s interior minister and the leader of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union, wants to force through a plan to send back migrants who have already registered for asylum in other EU states.
Ms. Merkel rejects the proposal as offloading the burden on neighboring states, and says it would kill efforts to forge a bloc-wide response to the continent’s struggle with migration.
Bavarian lawmakers are fully behind Mr. Seehofer, while Ms. Merkel has wrested a majority in the larger CDU group for her position.
The standoff is a replay of tensions that have periodically bubbled up between the 2 since the height of the refugee crisis in Ys 2015 and 2016, only this time there is no obvious way out.
Below are some potential scenarios, as follows:
The 2 parties have managed to eke out a compromise after each previous conflict. Overtures could begin on Monday, when the CSU party executive meets in Munich. Mr. Seehofer could give Ms Merkel what she wants: 2 weeks to forge bi-lateral accords with countries such as Italy and Greece to return registered asylum seekers.
Ms. Merkel could also give ground. She could put forward another proposal to assuage the CSU that may yield a compromise. But if she caves in to the Bavarian demands as they stand, it would be an unprecedented loss of authority that would render her a lame duck leader.
In the absence of a deal, the real clash could come as early as Monday. That’s when Mr. Seehofer has indicated he will start to implement his plan at the border. As interior minister, Mr. Seehofer has the authority to do so, even in the face of Ms. Merkel’s rejection. The only way for the Chancellor to forestall a unilateral decision by her minister would be to fire him. Sacking her top Bavarian ally would be a historic 1st. If it happens, it’s hard to see how the coalition continues.
Even if it does not come to that and Mr. Merkel is given until the 28-29 June EU Summit to reach bi-lateral agreements, it may only delayed the clash, since there is no guarantee she can win deals with other other EU states, the prospect ambitious.
For a coalition to dissolve, the German constitution says the lower house of parliament, or Bundestag, has to call a vote of confidence. The CDU and CSU, with a combined 246 seats, and the SPD with 153, have a majority of 44 seats in the 709-seat Bundestag. Such a move would be the ultimate measure of support for Merkel as chancellor. Even if she is unable to rely on the CSU, or indeed all of her own party’s votes, on the specific issue of her stand on migration Ms. Merkel might be able to attract the support of the Greens, which have 67 seats.
Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung said in an opinion piece Friday that Ms. Merkel should short-circuit the squabbling and put her parliamentary support to the test with a confidence vote. It’s a tactic that her predecessor, Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder, used to force through military support for the US after the 9/11 attacks. He used it again in Y 2005 amid a party rebellion, and this time lost the confidence motion, forcing new elections.
Angela Merkel Resigns
Should the Chancellor view her authority as irretrievably compromised, she could resign. The Bundestag would be forced to elect a new Chancellor to replace her, most likely from the CDU. Unless the governing parties agree to continue the coalition under a new leader, Germany’s 9th chancellor since World War II would serve in a caretaker capacity through to a new election.
Split On the Right
The CDU and the CSU are sister parties, with a joint parliamentary caucus and electoral program. Think of the CSU as the center-right’s Bavarian chapter, the CDU operates in all of Germany’s 16 states except Bavaria.
A break would be drastic, but not unprecedented
Have a terrific weekend.