In Crisis, Angela Merkel Prefers Elections to Minority Rule

 In U.S.

The collapse of talks reflected the deep reluctance of Ms. Merkel’s conservative bloc and prospective coalition partners — the ecologist-minded Greens and pro-business Free Democrats — to compromise over key positions. The Free Democrats quit the talks late Sunday, citing what they called an atmosphere of insincerity and mistrust.

“There is no coalition of the willing to form a government,” said Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund. “This is uncharted territory since 1949. We’re facing a protracted period of political immobility. Not only is this not going to go away soon, there is no clear path out.”

Calling new elections is not a straightforward procedure in Germany. Written with the unstable governments of the 1920s and 1930s and collapse of the Weimar Republic in mind, the German Constitution includes several procedural hurdles that would ensure a prolonged and difficult process.

Some were quick to link Germany’s disorder to a broader crisis of democracy in the West. “The unthinkable has happened,” said Christiane Hoffmann, deputy head of the Berlin bureau of Der Spiegel, a German magazine. In that sense, she said, “This is Germany’s Brexit moment, its Trump moment.”

Others said Germany’s troubles were in many ways just a sign that the country was becoming more normal, not less. Having had only four chancellors since 1982, the country has known only a string of centrist governments that governed by consensus.

The crisis erupted seven weeks after the last election, which brought the right-wing Alternative for Germany, or AfD, into Parliament, and in some ways represented the return of politics to a country long deprived of debate and policy disagreements.

“It’s just another step in the long learning of democracy of Germany since World War II, going from a very stable proportional system to something more messy,” said Henrik Enderlein, dean of the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.

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