Angela Merkel is traditionally known as Germany’s “safe pair of hands,” but when government-coalition talks unexpectedly collapsed late Sunday night after just four weeks, her future as the country’s chancellor was suddenly in question.
It began just before midnight local time, when the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) party announced that it would no longer take part in coalition talks to form Germany’s next government. Though Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and its Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) sister party won the largest share of votes during the country’s general election in September, they failed to win enough seats to govern on their own. Having ruled out forming a coalition with the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), the third-largest party, Merkel’s party entered into coalition talks with two smaller parties, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens, in hopes of forming a “Jamaica” coalition (called Jamaica because the parties’ colors of black, yellow, and green, respectively, correspond to those of the Jamaican flag).
Addressing reporters late Sunday night, FDP leader Christian Linder attributed the failure of the proposed Jamaica coalition to a lack of common vision or trust among the parties, noting that “it’s better not to govern than to govern badly.” Merkel called the collapse of talks “regrettable” but insisted her party would act responsibly in the national interest, in an apparent dig at the FDP. Others were less restrained. One lawmaker in Merkel’s party dubbed the FDP a “circus troupe devoid of substance,” while another praised it sarcastically for its “well prepared spontaneity.”