French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni chat in while in Sicily last month for the G7 summit. Photo: AFP/Filippo Monteforte

While Angela Merkel is by all accounts going to win a fourth term as German chancellor on Sunday, it is less certain exactly what a ruling coalition in the Bundestag will look like. How this shakes down could have consequences for the Franco-German axis that many see ushering new eurozone reforms.

With France’s Macron administration saying the president will outline his proposals for EU reform immediately following the election, how will that play out in the negotiations to form a German ruling coalition?

Merkel’s own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) will likely end up with the most seats in the German legislature. Her main general election opponent Marin Schulz’s Social Democrats (SPD) will come in second, if polls are to be believed.

Neither of those parties will have the majority required to form a government so it leaves three primary possible coalitions:

  • Merkel’s CDU/CSU continues a grand coalition with Schulz’s SPD
  • CDU/CSU forms a coalition with smaller liberal parties such as the Free Democratic (FDP) or Green parties
  • Schulz’s SPD forms a coalition in opposition to Merkel along with the Left (Link) and Green parties.

What do these different coalitions mean for the Macron’s chances of getting Merkel on board with his ambitious reform agenda?

The FDP is a close fit for Merkel’s CDU and might spell trouble for Macron’s more ambitious proposals, which would be a tough sell to begin with. But polls show the FDP unlikely to give the CDU enough seats to win a majority and a continuation of the CDU/SPD “grand coalition” more likely.

The SPD is more supportive of Macron’s ideas generally, but shares a common German resentment of any policies that could be seen as forcing Germany to bail out other states.

The most likely outcome, regardless of what Macron injects into the debate, is an innocuous one, where a German government supportive of the EU emerges, leaving a growing far-right, anti-EU wing still marginal in influence. Just how far Merkel is willing to stick out her neck to support a revamping of the eurozone will probably depend as much on how successful Macron is in holding up his end of the bargain through domestic French reforms as it will on German politics.