Washington's political stunts and Italy's government crises are nothing new. But what looks like a difficult search for a governing coalition in Germany, and, possibly, another round of parliamentary elections, could soon be a sight to behold.
Last Friday, the 250 delegates of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD -- with 25.7 percent of the popular vote in last elections) gave the mandate to their leadership to open exploratory coalition discussions with Chancellor Merkel 's Christian Democrats (CDU), who got 41.5 percent of the vote and were only 5 seats short of the absolute parliamentary majority.
Reflecting a deep cleavage between the SPD's base and its leadership, the negotiating mandate came with a tough rider.
First, SPD leaders will have to report to the party delegates on the results of these initial discussions, likely to begin this week. And then, should these contacts lead to formal negotiations, the party leaders would have to obtain the delegates' authorization on the terms under which the SPD would accept to participate in the future government.
In the end, the coalition agreement, if there is one, would have to be submitted to an SPD referendum, clearly implying that leaders would have to resign if disavowed by the party vote.
Germany's red-green-red coalition?
One of them already did: Peer Steinbrueck, the SPD's candidate for chancellor in last elections, and the finance minister in the CDU-SPD coalition government from 2005 to 2009, has emphatically refused to participate in negotiati––ons with CDU.
I don't believe that this is part of the usual political posturing. The rift is serious, and widening, between the current SPD party leaders – who fear their own political oblivion – and the party base apparently unafraid to stay in the opposition and to fight for renewal on the strength of their traditional values and beliefs.
Is there any scope for a CDU-SPD agreement?