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Merkel bloodied but still standing after breakdown in coalition talks

Merkel bloodied but still standing after breakdown in coalition talks
From CBC - November 20, 2017

In the political rubble and name-calling in Germany, the headline was devastating: "Merkel's Defeat."

That was how Holger Steltzner, the commentator for the prestigious Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, labelled his analysis on Monday.

The Jamaica coalition talksso called because the colours of the political parties involved are those of the Jamaican flaghad collapsed overnight.

'It's better not to rule than to rule badly. Goodbye.' - ChristianLindner, leader of Germany's Free Democratic Party

The leader of the Free Democratic Party, Christian Lindner, angrily walked out, saying there was "no basis of trust."

"It's better not to rule than to rule badly. Goodbye."

Just how the strange coalition would rule was always a question. The four partiesChancellor Angela Merkel's right-of-centre Christian Democratic Union (CDU); its Bavarian partner, the Christian Social Union (CSU); the Free Democrats; and the Greensare four political groupings with quite different priorities. But only together could they inch over the line to a majority in the German Bundestag.

The breakdown is Merkel's second defeat in two months. The first was the narrow, technical win for Merkel and the partner parties she led in September's national elections. Their score of 33 per cent was the lowest for the CDU-CSU since the beginning of the Federal Republic in 1949. In just four years she had lost a quarter of her parties' voters.

The second defeat, on Sunday night, was personal. Just 10 days ago the influential weekly Die Zeit said she had shown almost no leadership in the talks and instead had been "fidgeting."

Steltzner's view is that she had lost the most in the collapse of the coalition talks, but her party, the CDU, stood to lose even more in the coming weeks and months under her leadership.

Beginning of the end?

This may not be the end for Merkel, but if it is, you can isolate the beginning of the end easily. It's on a graph.

In 2013, 2014 and 2015 the popularity of her CDU-CSU party alliance was consistently over 40 per cent, at times reaching 45 per cent. Then in 2015, it started to drop and dipped sharply at the beginning of October 2015, when the CDU-CSU stood at just 32 per cent.

That was just weeks after Merkel's midnight calls to the leaders of Hungary and Austria, telling them to open their borders to the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees penned up for days in Hungary. Then the order went out to open Germany's doors.

"The Germans are not going to like this," a German cameraman in his thirties kept muttering next to me as the refugees streamed across the Austrian border. It seemed a sour and misplaced remark as friendly crowds in Munich applauded the first Syrian arrivals, handing out clothes, dolls and food to them.

Almost immediately, the CSU made its anger public and called for limits on the refugee numbers.

'Great concern' inside and outsideGermany

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