Three months after Germans went to the polls, Chancellor Angela Merkel is making a last ditch effort to form an alliance with the left-wing Social Democrats (SPD), a move that could secure her a fourth term in office. Last month, Merkel’s traditional ally, the center-right Free Democrats (FDP), abruptly walked out of the talks, citing irreconcilable differences over refugee policy and other key issues — leaving a so-called ‘grand coalition’ with the SPD her only path to power.

“I’m going into these talks with optimism, indeed it’s clear that in these few days we have a huge amount of work ahead of us, but we’re willing to take on this work and achieve a good outcome,” Merkel said ahead of the week-long talks.

Some German media outlets were less optimistic. “The countdown (clock) ticks for Merkel,” the German daily Frankfurter Rundschau wrote. “A renewed failure of talks could wipe out the top leadership, not just Merkel, but also (CSU chief) Seehofer and (SPD chief) Martin Schulz.”

German newspaper Berliner Zeitung also used similar words to describe Merkel’s bid to hold on to power:

It could all be over in less than a week. It is just a five-day countdown till the conservative bloc and the SPD get over their political aversion and start governing together.

Five day, that could decide that Merkel has to leave the Chancellor’s office. The first women at the helm of Germany could end her tenure after staying in office for 13 years.

The chancellorship of the ‘compromise champion’ (Merkel) could end with an irony: not by resignation of electoral defeat, but due to the inability to reach a compromise. All three parties (CDU-CSU alliance and SPD), which lost the election, but hold a majority, will decide by Friday if they want to rule together. [Translation by author]

If Merkel fails to convince the SPD to join her government, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will be obliged to order fresh elections in two months time. Dipping poll numbers, however, could force the conservative and the socialists to forge a ruling alliance. German newspaper Die Welt reports today:

According to Insa-Trend poll commissioned by the newspaper Bild Zeutung, [Merkel’s Christian Democratic] Union and the SPD manage to get only 51 percent of the vote. The worst showing for the alliance since the last coalition talks — the so-called Jamaica round — collapsed in mid November. Last week they were at 52 percent.

The [Christian Democratic] Union gets 31.5 percent of the votes, one percentage point down compared to last week. The SPD stays below the 20-percent-mark with 19.5 percent.

These numbers imply that less people are inclined to vote for both the big parties than in the general election held in September 2017. The [Christian Democratic] Union emerged as the strongest force and got 32,9 percent of the vote, its worst result since 1949. The Social Democrats won 20.5 percent, also their worst result since the WWII. [Translation by author]

“New elections could hand more gains to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party,” concluded the news agency Reuters last week, citing unnamed experts. This assertion is supported by the polling data that shows increased support for the AfD since the general election.

Merkel’s personal image has also taken a hit since September. A separate Insa-poll showed that the majority of Germans now prefer new elections and 52 percent of them don’t want to see Merkel on the ballot next time.

 

If Merkel manages to cut a deal with the SPD, Germany will further shift to the left. Berlin is expected to take an even more liberal line on her existing open doors policy for migrants, creating a further rift within the EU. Germany, backed by France’s Macron, is also expected to renew its push for an EU-wide migrant relocation plan that seeks to resettle hundreds and thousands of newly arrived migrants across the EU, a move bitterly opposed by the eastern European member states.

In her forth term, Merkel could expect to face the domestic fallout of her migrant policy. Migrant unemployment is at a record high. Hundreds and thousands of migrants, mostly fighting-age men from Arab and Muslim countries, are now living off welfare instead of seeking gainful employment.

German municipalities and town councils face severe financial constraints as an ever-increasing number of young migrants go on the dole. According to a projection made by a prominent German think-tank, the price tag for Merkel’s open borders policy could be as high as €878 in the long run.

The migrant crime wave would be an even greater challenge for Merkel to tackle in her forth term. A recent study commissioned by the German government show a direct link between the refugee arrivals and the upsurge in violent crimes across the country.

Despite these daunting and self-inflicted crises, Merkel’s desire to govern Germany remains as strong as ever.

Video: Merkel battles for political survival in ‘last-ditch’ talks with SPD, reports EuroNews

[Cover image via YouTube]