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The CDU/CSU-FDP Coalition: The First 100 Days (February 4, 2010)

After the first hundred days of the CDU/CSU-FDP coalition, everyone agreed that the government had gotten off to a bumpy and disappointing start. The author of this piece joined the chorus of critics. The quarrels within the coalition, he argued, were not only the result of ideological disagreements. For him, one important question was the partners’ understanding of the roles played by the citizen and the state as well as the position of the various parties in the changed political landscape of the Federal Republic of Germany.

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One Hundred Days of Black-Yellow*: Less than the Sum of Its Parts

“Merkel II” has been in office for one hundred days and many Germans are dissatisfied with it, particularly those who expected more determined political leadership from the chancellor than from the [preceding] shotgun marriage between the SPD, CDU, and CSU.** And the crucial test for the Black-Yellow coalition is yet to come.

No new coalition has ever gotten off to a smooth start in Germany, not even the “Red-Green project” led by Gerhard Schröder. It would certainly be wrong to claim that the CDU/CSU-FDP alliance has sat on its hands during its first hundred days in office. It has lowered taxes for the taxpayers, increased social assistance for those in need of it, and listened to the doubts of the doubting Thomases, all the way to the Hindu Kush. But it has received mostly poor grades for its efforts. These have not only come from the “antagonistic media” often invoked by the FDP chairman. Now even politicians in the Party of High Income Earners*** have conceded that the coalition has had a rocky start. This has been no honeymoon – even the spin doctors know that.

Every Bundestag election is followed by a sobering up, for both the people and their leaders. A coalition cannot fulfill all the promises made by party leaders during the election – this was something people understood about the Grand Coalition. But many Germans are dissatisfied with “Merkel II,” not only those who voted against it, but also – to an unusual degree – those supporters who expected the chancellor to lead a more determined and unified government than the preceding one, which resulted from a shotgun marriage between the SPD, CDU, and CSU. Disappointment is spreading in the conservative-bourgeois camp, although it is focused more on the last election’s wunderkind, the FDP, than the CDU/CSU.

No Comment from the Chancellor

No one expects grand talk of a historical mission, but this coalition, which calls itself “Christian” and “liberal,” has not even managed to explain why it should be leading the country instead of anyone else. The vice chancellor at least appears to have realized what’s missing for many FDP and CDU/CSU followers, but he has yet to fully explain what his subsequent demand for “intellectual and political change” is supposed to mean, assuming it is not limited to tax reform. From the chancellor, no comment. She views the ideological drivel with suspicion.

But even in a pragmatic age, there are voters – particularly in the bourgeois-conservative camp – who expect the government to at least offer the prospect of values-based leadership. Yet instead of leadership, this coalition offers disunity, and to a much greater degree than might be expected from a group of likeminded individuals. So far, the CDU/CSU-FDP alliance can best be described as a whole that amounts to less than the sum of its parts. Anyone who tries to count these parts is more likely to come up with thirty rather than three.

* The political parties in Germany are commonly identified by their traditional colors: black for the CDU (and CSU), red for the SPD and the Left Party, yellow for the FDP, and, of course, green for the Greens. Thus, Black-Yellow refers to a coalition between the CDU/CSU and the FDP – trans.
** A reference to the Grand Coalition, 2005-2009 – trans.
*** A reference to the FDP – trans.

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