Is a Breakup Between the CDU/CSU Coalition with the FDP Imminent?

Another student guest post.  This one covers Germany’s governing coalition…with a focus on the tensions between the CDU and FDP.

Original image from The Economist at

The parties that comprise the current center-right governing coalition in Germany are the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Free Democratic Party (FDP). Based off the 2009 elections the percent of the seats that each party holds in the Bundestag are as follows: the CDU holds about 31% of the seats, the CSU has 7%, and the FDP approximately 15%. Together the coalition commands about 53% of the seats in the Bundestag, making it a minimal winning government.

A lot has happened since the 2009 elections. Although the FDP performed very well in the elections, they have lost a large degree of support since then. Current polls show that support for the FDP is only around 4% which is very bad news for them because a 5% threshold must be crossed to enter the Bundestag. Furthermore, FDP results in the Landtage (state parliaments) of Germany have been dismal. In 2011 it was ejected from five state legislatures and it faces downfall in several others in pending elections. What happened to the FDP? Its policies of cutting welfare and stringent demands for tax cuts have alienated voters. The FDP took another hit when the general secretary, Christian Linder, resigned in December. Moreover, the leadership change of switching out Guido Westerwelle with Phillip Röstler as the head of the party was hoped to bring a fresh face to the FDP but has made little difference.

With the poor showing of the FDP in the Landtage and in national polls, the CDU will likely have no other choice but to find a new coalition partner if they want to remain in government after the September 2013 elections. Furthermore, the coalition with the FDP has been less than harmonious. The two parties constantly clashed over what should be done in terms of the euro crisis, what the best strategy for nuclear energy phase out is, and tax cuts. It has been argued that many of the CDU’s policies align better with those of the SPD and the Green Party, especially when it comes to minimum wage and energy reform. It is for these reasons that many predict that Chancellor Angela Merkel is laying the foundation for building a new coalition, likely with the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Many believe that Angela Merkel’s original opposition to the nomination of the new German president Joachim Gauck is evidence of moves to court the opposition in preparation for a new coalition in 2013. When brainstorming for who the next president should be, Chancellor Merkel came up with two SPD candidates and one CDU environmentalist to broadcast intention to cooperate with those two parties. Although the plan failed and Merkel agreed to the nomination of Gauck, it’s clear that a shuffling of the cards might be in order for 2013.

Will the grand coalition that existed between the SPD, CDU, and CSU from 2005-2009 reemerge in 2013? It is too early to tell. However, some argue that this type of grand coalition could show that government can be coherent and effective amidst crisis. Others suggest that this type of coalition is inherently the more stable option, as a more fragmented coalition like the Jamaica coalition (CDU/CSU, FDP, Greens) or traffic light coalition (SPD, FDP, Greens) results in difficulties bridging the wider array of policy positions. Perhaps it is the stability of a grand coalition and consensus politics that Germany needs in the unstable setting the euro crisis has created.


Der Spiegel. “How Would Germans Vote Today?” 22 Mar. 2012.,5532,21034,00.html

The Economist. “Germany’s Angst.” The Economist. 17 Nov. 2011. 21 Mar. 2012.

The Economist. “Germany’s Coalition: Merkel at the Top.” The Economist. 28 Jan. 2012. 21 Mar. 2012.

The Economist. “Germany’s Coalition: Rising Above Bedlam.” The Economist. 17 Mar. 2012. 21 Mar. 2012.

The Economist. “Germany’s Free Democrats: Shambles of a Party.” The Economist. 14 Dec. 2011. 21 Mar. 2012.

Kropp, Sabine. “The Ubiquity And Strategic Complexity Of Grand Coalition In The German Federal System.” German Politics 19.3/4 (2010): 286-311.

Mangasarian, Leon. “Merkel’s Party Seeks to Woo FDP Voters as State Elections Loom.” Bloomberg. 22 Mar. 2012. 22 Mar. 2012.

Medick, Veit. “Could the SPD Really Say No to a Grand Coalition?” Der Spiegel. 16 Sept. 2011. 21 Mar. 2012.,1518,786671,00.html

Parties and Elections in Europe. “Germany.” 21 Mar. 2012.

Schwennicke, Christoph. “Defeat in Presidential Battle Leaves Merkel Isolated.” Der Spiegel. 20 Feb. 2012. 22 Mar. 2012.,1518,816442,00.html

Stütze, Peter. “Opinion: Are German politics becoming unstable?” Deutsche Welle. 15 Mar. 2012. 22 Mar. 2012.,,15810063,00.html

Von Hammerstein, Konstantin. “FDP Could Scupper Merkel’s Chances of Third Term.” Der Spiegel. 28 Feb. 2012. 22 Mar. 2012.,1518,817768,00.html


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