I had intended to write this sooner, but real life proved to be less than amenable.
Merkel is gone. The person who was the global face of Germany for 16 years is out of power and out of the Bundestag. The most noticeable thing is that there is nothing of note. Life carries on and her legacy, to use that awful term, has evaporated within days. That seems to be the norm; now more than ever. A prime minister like Cameron, a president like Obama, a Kanzler like Merkel can hold office for years, dominate discussion and public focus and then disappear as if they had never existed at all. If a legacy does exist, more often than not it’s toxic. Tony Blair left the UK worse for the wear, far worse. Turnbull left little of value, but planted a toxic crop that still hunts the Liberal Party. He’s not so much “the Ghost” as he is “the Fart”. Macron is creating a climate so toxic that even if he is forced out of power in April, the French state has become so heavy-handed and brutal that already strained relations between the people and the government will take years to heal if the French state makes few major mistakes.
So Merkel is gone. Her party is in tatters, rudderless, leaderless and in desperate need to find itself. Is it a centre-right, Christian Democratic party, the legacy of Adenauer? Is it a centrist party a la Merkel, reliant on Bavaria’s CSU to hold the line? After all, the only reason why it didn’t collapse entirely is that Bavaria, albeit by a reduced margin, once again supported the CSU. Without it, the theoretic centre-right would have been reduced to a rump opposition in the way that they were in Western Australia or the Northern Territories.
Germany has a new government. It is a complicated piece of political machinery. The Social Democrats stand at the centre of a three-party coalition that includes the Greens and the Free Democrats. The old party of labour, the party of activists and student union demagogues and the party of the polite middle class now need to hold together for four years. Is it possible? Quite probably so. The SPD haven’t led a government since 2005 and this is their chance to prove that they are still capable of that. For the Greens, it’s their first taste of power since 2005. For the FDP, it’s their first time in power since 2013 and their first time in a coalition with a party other than the CDU/CSU since Helmut Schmidt, some 40 years ago. It’s not that one can expect much from them, but being in power is its own aphrodisiac and it’s doubtful any of the three are keen to risk losing it (and electoral credibility).