Under Pressure

2 minute read

Is German chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s coalition government in danger of falling apart? A lot depends on negotiations this week in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, where neither the ruling Social Democrats (SPD) nor the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) managed to win a majority in a February state election.

After incumbent SPD state premier Heide Simonis failed to build a minority government, the SPD and CDU have opened talks on a possible “grand coalition.” The CDU has the advantage: by walking away, it would trigger new state elections and almost certainly win. Failure to strike a deal could even force national elections — the last thing Schröder wants right now. The SPD’s popularity slumped to 29% in a Forsa poll published in Stern magazine last week, while the CDU rose to 46%. Crucial elections take place on May 22 in North Rhine Westphalia, and recent polls show the SPD could lose that traditional stronghold to the CDU. Defeats in both states would give the CDU control of the upper house, the Bundesrat, putting a stranglehold on government legislation.

Still, Jürgen Falter, a political scientist at the University of Mainz, thinks Schröder and his Green partners “have absolutely no alternative” to sticking together — and hoping the economy picks up.

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