Sat, Sep 17, 2005 - Page 9 News List

The possibilities are endless for German voters

With no party likely to obtain a clear majority, talk of the various coalition combinations is keeping the analysts busy ahead of the poll tomorrow


Challenger Angela Merkel is likely to win the most votes in German elections tomorrow, but polls show her falling short of a majority. This, coupled with the slim chance that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder clings to power, means numerous coalitions are possible.

Here is a ranking of possible governments that Europe's biggest economy could wind up with after 62 million voters cast their ballots tomorrow:

Grand coalition: With Merkel's Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) averaging 41.6 percent in Germany's six top opinion polls, compared with Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) at 33.7 percent, the one government which every voter survey gives a majority is a marriage of the country's two biggest parties.

This seems the most likely election result despite the fact that Merkel and Schroeder both reject such an alliance. Schroeder has made it clear he would quit rather than serve in any such government.

Germany was ruled by a such a grand coalition from 1966 to 1969, but the big difference back then was that both parties wanted such a government and worked to make it a success.

Analysts predict this time round a grand coalition would be highly unstable and unlikely to pass major reforms needed to cure Germany's ailing economy.

Some predict that new elections might have to be held as early as next year if a grand coalition comes to power.

Conservative led coalition: Merkel's CDU/CSU and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) enjoyed a solid majority for months in the polls but that support has eroded in past weeks. All six polls show the CDU/CSU-FDP failing to clinch a majority with on average the surveys showing the bloc at 48.3 percent.

Given that an poll Wednesday found a surprising 33 percent of voters still undecided, Merkel's desired coalition could still win a majority -- but this has to be seen, at best, as the second most likely election result.

Leftist coalition: Schroeder and leaders of his ruling SPD and Greens partner vow they will not set up a leftist government with the new Left Party -- a merger of the former East German communists and a smaller western German protest group.

But with a few SPD chieftains like Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit touting this model, Merkel accuses the SPD and Greens of planning such a government.

Analysts, however, think it is unlikely because moderate SPD and Greens members would revolt in parliament and hinder a Red-Red-Green government majority. It could also badly erode SPD support in western Germany.

Expanded center-left coalition under Schroeder: A number of analysts including political scientist Franz Walter of the University of Goettingen predict Schroeder will seek to stay in power by adding the opposition FDP to his SPD-Greens government.

SPD chancellors have ruled with both the FDP and the Greens at different times, but there have been only a few short-lived three-party "streetlight coalition" -- so nicknamed because the parties have red, yellow and green as their trademark colors -- at regional level.

While some SPD leaders and a lower ranking Green official have openly held up this model, most of the Greens and FDP chief Guido Westerwelle have fiercely rejected it.

The problem is that the polls show no majority for Red-Yellow-Green which an average of the six polling agency results give 47.6 percent. But here again, the high number of undecided voters could make this an option tomorrow.

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