What You Need To Know About 'Germany's Brexit Moment'

The breakdown of coalition talks has plunged German politics into a deep political crisis.

MUNICH ― German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Monday that talks to form a coalition government following national elections in September had collapsed. 

Late on Sunday, the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) pulled the plug on weekslong negotiations to form a so-called “Jamaica coalition” — due to the involved parties’ colors matching those of the Jamaican flag — with the Greens and the alliance of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU).

“It’s better not to govern than to govern badly,” FDP head Christian Lindner said.

The breakdown has plunged German politics into a deep political crisis and poses one of the biggest challenges for Merkel in her 12 years in office. 

Here’s how German newspapers analyzed the developments: 

There Are Only Losers

“No trust, only losers,” Spiegel Online headlined. The Jamaica parties’ failure to come to an agreement after weeks of negotiations was partly caused by a lack of trust, the newspaper argued. None of the parties involved strongly signaled they wanted the coalition to succeed. Merkel’s ”trusty old method” failed to work: “[There was] no idea, no leadership, just the hope that everything would somehow fall into place in the end after a final, long and sleep-deprived night.” But it didn’t. Instead, Germany experienced its “Brexit moment.” 

As the Taz summarized the situation: “The morning after: No power for nobody.”

Failure Isn’t So Bad

Bild, however, argued that while all parties are on the losing end in the current situation, this can be a moment to “prove one’s worth.” The tabloid urged the Social Democrats to enter coalition talks, and warned that all parties will feel the “rightful anger” of the voters if they would fail to come to an agreement.

Germany Is Weakened On The International Stage

The end of the so-called Jamaica coalition is also a “setback” for Germany internationally, the Süddeutsche Zeitung argued. The nation is suddenly demonstrating something that it hadn’t for a long time, particularly compared to other European countries, the newspaper wrote: “the inability to address problems in a way that solves them.”

“The German industry in particular will respond with incomprehension, annoyance, perhaps even anger,” SZ warned.

Echoing that assessment, the Rheinische Post argued neither new elections, nor the creation of a minority government, would help Germany’s global image. The far-right party Alternative for Germany would exploit the situation, the paper said, and Germany would no longer appear a dependable partner at the international level. 

As RP said, the issues that are so controversial in Germany right now ― refugee policies, climate change and finance ― require stable majorities to be dealt with adequately. “One cannot leave the political fate of the world’s fourth biggest economy to chance.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses reporters on Nov. 16. 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses reporters on Nov. 16. 

It’s The End Of Merkel’s Career

Finally, many newspapers agree that the current political crisis may be catastrophic for Merkel. 

“The failure of the Jamaica coalition could also sound the bell for the end of Merkel’s career,” Rheinische Post wrote, adding that it’s unlikely the CDU leader will contest new elections.

Spiegel Online echoed: “Looking visibly weary, Merkel still maintained on Sunday night that she could ‘almost call it a historical day’ (…) That statement might prove very accurate down the road.” 

This story was originally published on HuffPost Germany and was translated into English.