Update: changed the wording in the last paragrath and the heading a bit it. I made a possibility sound like it was almost guaranteed to happen. Of course a coalition could last for four years if everything is going fine for partner.
In 2005 Merkel became the first female chancellor. Her first coalition partner was the SPD. Back then the party reached 34.2 percent of the popular vote (1 percent less than Merkel's Union). Nobody wanted a grand coalition, but there was only one other fesible possibility (liberals and greens don't mix in Germany). The SPD would have had a center left majority together with the Greens and the newly founded Linkspartei.PDS, which consisted of the East German PDS and WASG, former SPD members who left in protest due to the Agenda 2010. Of course, there was no way they could work with dissenters, who wanted to undo the reforms.
There were two reasons why the grand coalition wasn't favored back then:
- A coalition with enough votes to change the Grundgesetz (constitution) on their own (either SPD or CDU/CSU are also the senior partners in all state governments which have votes in the other chanber the Bundesrat) just isn't good for a functioning democracy.The first grand coalition caused a large "out of parliament" opposition. This grand coalition chose to use their power by enacting the possibility of Weimaresque Emergency Acts demanded by the allies.
- Other than that it stood for the most part for stagnation.
In 2009 the citizens wanted to end the misery that was the grand coalition, so every one of the three small parties in the parliament gained votes. The FDP reached their best ever result, because many Germans wanted to make sure that the grand coalition ends, but wanted to be certain that Merkel remained in office. The SPD fell to their lowest ever result. The Union walked away from the slow motion train wreck, that had been the grand coalition, largely unscathed. They lost 1.4 percent and the SPD 11.2 percent.
Merkel became known as the Teflon-chancellor, because everything just dripped off from her and did not leave a stain. Arguments happened only between ministers, while she was seen standing above and untouched by anything.
Just like the grand coalition before the new Union-FDP government had big plans; and wrote them into their government program; and the new Merkel government also achieved next to nothing. It was mostly known for an utterly stupid statement by our foreign minister; and arguments within the coalition. Let's not forget that they probably played a significant role in the likely destruction of the euro. So they did "reform" just not at home.
In the election on Sunday, Merkel wasn't only unscathed, she walked away stronger than ever. Even almost reaching 50 percent of the seats in the Bundestag. The FDP for the first time in the history of the Bundesrepublik (Federal Republic), did not get over the 5 percent hurdle; and will therefore not be in the next Bundestag.
My personal guess is that the two possible coalition partners, the SPD and the Greens might learn from history. Four years with Merkel have ended in disaster for the "partner" twice. The Linke has matured quite abit from 2005 (Linkspartei.PDS back then) We will likely see a grand coalition (Union Greens seems less likely) now. But, after one and a half years the SPD will reasses their chances in the next elections and might force a no-confidence vote and we will see a three party center left coalition, if things are not going their way in the grand coalition. Well, or Merkel will get away with four more years, and the oldest German party (the SPD) will have killed itself.