Germany’s Christian Democrats concerned Merkel may win general election but lose power

Senior CDU fear opposition Social Democrats may spurn another coalition following September general election

The stumbling campaign of Social Democrats challenger for German chancellor Peer Steinbrück has seen his party drop well below 30 per cent. Photograph: Reuters/Thomas Peter

The stumbling campaign of Social Democrats challenger for German chancellor Peer Steinbrück has seen his party drop well below 30 per cent. Photograph: Reuters/Thomas Peter

Sat, Jun 22, 2013, 01:00

Leading figures from Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) have voiced concern that Chancellor Angela Merkel may win September’s general election yet still lose power. With exactly three months to polling day, senior party officials, including long-serving cabinet ministers, are worried the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) may spurn another grand coalition with Dr Merkel and instead form a three-way coalition with the Green Party and the Left Party.

Election arithmetic
Latest polls show the CDU below 40 per cent and its Free Democrat (FDP) coalition partner flat-lining around 5 per cent, the hurdle to re-enter parliament.

The stumbling campaign of SPD Merkel challenger Peer Steinbrück, meanwhile, has seen his party drop well below 30 per cent. Not even a strong performance by the Green Party, currently at 14 per cent, can alone secure their preferred Red-Green alliance.

Mr Steinbrück has already ruled out another alliance with Chancellor Merkel, but speculation surrounds the intentions of SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel. Will he shaft Mr Steinbrück after an election disaster and agree to a repeat of the 2005 grand coalition? Or will he take the taboo-breaking plunge with the Greens and Left Party?

“A few things speak in favour of such a three-way alliance, in particular the cold election arithmetic,” said Dr Gero Neugebauer, political scientist at Berlin’s Free University. “But if Mr Gabriel was planning such a coup, as some think, he’d never take a chance and admit it before the election.”

For now, Mr Gabriel insists it will be at least another decade before his party approaches the Left Party, formed in 2007 when the reformed East German communists allied with left-wing SPD defectors, disillusioned with Schröder-era economic reforms.

Left Party leaders are similarly energetic in dismissing any talk of a post-election hook-up with the SPD. “With 90 days to the election, the SPD is dismantling itself,” said co-leader Bernd Riexinger.

“For now,” said Dr Neugebauer, “the talk sounds more like a CDU attempt to mobilise their voters with a red scare. But it shows that they’re worried.”