No Jamaica?

The “preliminary” talks between the CDU, CSU, Greens, and FDP on a so-called “Jamaica coalition” have hit an impasse, with the FDP pulling out. This was the only viable coalition following the recent elections, assuming the SPD doesn’t change its mind and decide to go back into government.

So, new elections? Or sweetening the FDP’s offer, while somehow not losing the Greens?

28 thoughts on “No Jamaica?

  1. I still don’t understand why a minority government is rejected out of hand in Germany. It has worked pretty well in lots of other places like Denmark and Canada.

      • In theory, if the process goes on for long enough (it has never gone past the first vote), the president can appoint a chancellor elected by a plurality of the Bundestag. Seems no one wants to go that route.

      • Yeah I guess the theory is, since you have to vote for investiture, you’re going to own the government’s actions either way so you may as well participate in power.

    • Still, given that MMP offers little prospect of a meaningful change in the parliamentary balance of forces in a repeat election, a minority government seems like an eminently sensible solution. Perhaps one made up solely of CDU/CSU.

  2. Interesting to see what happens then given alternative for Germany can also provide the numbers along with the free Democrats. The German procedures for annual election are quite complicated

    • While I can see the SPD breaking the national cordon and considering at least talkling to Linke under certain circumstances (not necessarily the current circumstances) I cannot see ANYONE including AfD numbers in a coalition. I almost wonder if Merkel’s insistence on not leading a minority government is part of an unwillingness to even appear to be considering math that might invest or prop-up a government or allow a bill to pass with even tacit AfD support.

      • The Dutch had a similar problem with several incompatible parties.

        AfD are poison but so are Linke.

        About half of Germans have voted for difficult parties.

  3. Fans of the Danish TV drama Bergen have seen this movie before. It ends with the FDP leader as Prime Minister in an SPD/FDP/Green government with external support from the Left Party.

  4. I wonder if that taxpayers association is going to protest if there will be a new election

  5. This election is a poster child for advocates of majoritarian election rules and two-party systems. It seems to me that the important discussion to have (at least in an academic setting) is a discussion about how new parliaments should form governments as distinguished from how they actually do form governments.

    Example: how would this situation play out under the following rules. Each party or party leader that wants to proposes a cabinet. It would be up to party leaders (and unavoidable back-room deal making) which parties to represent in their cablnet proposals. The parliament then votes on the proposed cabinets, using either the alternative vote/IRV or the procedure in Roberts Rules of Order The latter amounts to the alternative vote except that the runoffs occur sequentially rather than instantly. Or maybe this is a situation where the Condorcet criterion is more important than (I think) it is in public elections.

    General point: at least some of the problems illustrated by this German election could be reduced by thoughtful institutional design. I’m not sure my IRV-among-proposed-cabinets idea is any good. But I do think that the tradition in many parliamentary systems, which amounts to unstructured (and often not public) horse-trading, could be improved.

    • Bob, it is an interesting idea. But how would it be any different from Germany is right now? Presumably, you still need a round of preliminary bargaining (which is exactly what just reached impasse) before the party leaders make the proposals, and the FDP would have decline to make a proposal, as would the SPD.

      • Yes, I was aware that my specific example has problems. But I’m trying to make a general point. Can’t some of the difficulties of situations like this be prevented by well-designed structures and rules shaping the bargaining process and the parliamentary procedure? The fact that I am not right person to design such institutions doesn’t mean that no one else is either.

      • Bob, you know I am all for creativity in designing rules. Otherwise, this blog would not exist. But for choosing coalition governments, I can’t see how any procedure would get past the basic fact that the party leaders have to be willing to serve with other party leaders for a coalition to work. And unless party leaders are not accountable to their MPs (rare, but Corbyn!), they presumably have pretty good information about what is acceptable to their rank and file.

        Thus I do not think that having MPs vote sequentially on alternative coalitions gets us away from the basic problems of coalition bargaining. I am, however, very happy to be shown wrong, and for someone to come up an alternative that would work.

      • I do think the question is important. For the reason why, see the fascinating comment thread to this Andrew Coyne article in the Canadian National Post:

        http://nationalpost.com/opinion/andrew-coyne-germanys-political-crisis-is-not-an-example-of-bad-proportional-representation

        I think Coyne is quite right about the meaning of the German election for Canada and elsewhere, but his opponents in the comments are adamant. And numerous.

        Purely as an aside here, can anyone imagine having a discussion this literate and informed in a comment thread in any U.S. newspaper or magazine on election rules?

  6. I did not even mention minority government in my short list of options, because everyone seems to say it just could not happen in Germany.

    Of course, that almost certainly means it is the most likely outcome.

    • I am attracted to the simplicity of the Cape Town rule – elect a head of government within 28 days or be dissolved. The Greek constitution has somewhat more elaborate procedures that are actually faster, with a maximum of 4 exploratory mandates each limited to 3 days and given to the parties in order of their representation in the parliament.

      Despite fervent belief to the contrary on the part of the Belgian and Dutch parties I do not believe the program differences between them are quite as great as the length of Belgian and Dutch government formations suggest. The informal rule for majority governments in Germany is equally questionable.

      • The Grand Coalition is kind of getting boring, I guess Germans like boring. Why can’t a minority coalition government with the FDP with the AfD supporting it with confidence and supply akin to Denmark? I know that this is currently taboo, but eventually it should be considered to neutralize the populists, don’t become Sweden, and be shock by the next few elections.

  7. According to an English tranlation of Germany’s basic law, section 63 provides for a possible election of a chancellor by a plorality rather than a majority of the Bundestag if the president’s proposed candidate is not elected by a majority and no other candidate recieves a majority within 14 days following the first failure. In such a case the president may either appoint the plorality candidate or dissolve the Bundestag. So theoretically a minority government seems possible. But maybe it goes against the political colture the same way a minority government isn’t considered appropriate in Israel though it is certainly possible legaly.

    • Well, that would require some party to abstain, then. As is usually the case, I suppose (Spain for example), although a few countries have actual multi-candidate votes which allow small parties to vote for their own leaders (e.g. Scotland and Wales)

      • Does anyone know the law and/or parliamentary rule that actually governs votes for the Chancellor? As far as I know, the official system in the Basic Law has never been tested as the official presidential nominee always gets a majority on the first vote. Are multi-candidate elections possible? Is it just a series of up or down votes on a single name? What system is used to even name a candidate? (Who can nominate someone, what happens if there are multiple names put up, etc.)

        Also what happens if the president starts playing games? Could the president put forward the SDP leader on the grounds that Merkel has told him she doesn’t have a majority in the hopes that a minority Traffic Light might stumble out of the pipeline? Or is that way too political for the German presidency?

      • Mark, I think that would be “way too political for a German president”. And if he is actually wanting to work in the SPD’s interest (which I would not assume), he would not put forth an SPD leader when that party has made clear it does not want to be in government with any currently viable combination of parties.

        A German political scientist friend tells me that there are rumors the SPD leadership is reconsidering joining with CDU/CSU, but that the rank and file (which has to approve) is probably still against. There is some possibility, apparently, of the SPD tolerating a minority CDU/CSU (or those parties plus Greens) minority administration, despite all the general reservations in Germany against minority governments.

        For the moment, polls look terrible for the SPD, so the party leadership might take steps to avoid an early election.

        I believe you are right that the election procedure laid out in the Basic Law has never been tested, because there has never been this level of impasse in the bargaining.

      • Mark

        The initial votes are on recommendations by the president. Article 63 would appear to envisage multi-candidate elections if the mechanic of presidential recommendations does not produce a chancellor. There is quite a strict time limit but it runs only from the president’s first recommendation.

        3. If the person proposed by the Federal President is not elected, the Bundestag may elect a Federal Chancellor within fourteen days after the ballot by the votes of more than one half of its Members.

        4. If no Federal Chancellor is elected within this period, a new election shall take place without delay, in which the person who receives the largest number of votes shall be elected. If the person elected receives the votes of a majority of the Members of the Bundestag, the Federal President must appoint him within seven days after the election. If the person elected does not receive such a majority, then within seven days the Federal President shall either appoint him or dissolve the Bundestag.

  8. If this is going to be a minority government, will it be similar to the Fine Gael/Independent minority tolerated by Fianna Fail? How often are grand coalitions and/or 2nd largest party tolerating the largest party forming minority government? This is dangerous, then that makes the AfD the official opposition.

    • Isn’t Fianna Fail still the Official Opposition in Ireland? I was of the understanding that their C&S agreement was really just an agreement to abstain on the nomination vote and then, basically, to not promise to withhold confidence and supply.

      Is there an official role to being the “Official Opposition” in Germany? Do they get extra resources? Aren’t parties not in government not in the habit of promoting an alternate chancellor candidate until close to an election?

      • Generally, speaking, the largest parliamentary party that does not have cabinet positions is an “opposition” party even if it has a confidence and supply agreement with the government. That is, the question of government–opposition status is dichotomous, even if reality is more nuanced.

        I say this from principles of political science (as I understand them), not in reference to any specific provisions of German law or parliamentary practice.

  9. Pingback: Bargaining failures in presidential and parliamentary systems | Fruits and Votes

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