Today’s Bild-Zeitung poll shows the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) at 14% of the vote, only 4 points behind the Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) 18%. This has created consternation inside the SPD, which is not sure which way to turn. A large part of the SPD base rejects the coalition out of fear that it would be a very junior partner to “the eternal Supermom” Angela Merkel, as Die Welt characterizes her this morning.
The Sachsen-Anhalt state SPD organization voted against coalition negotiations. Martin Schulz, the SPD’s Chancellor candidate in the September 23 election, has suffered a collapse of credibility: two-thirds of SPD voters don’t want him to have a cabinet job in the event that a grand coalition is formed. Other SPD leaders, German newspapers report, want a coalition because they fear that new elections would lead to an even more humiliating result. And a majority of German voters now want to “normalize” the status of the AfD, which has been treated as an ultra-right-wing pariah.
A natural German political majority is forming on the right, but it cannot yet rule, because the AfD still contains ultra-nationalist elements that undermine its credibility. These will be purged over the next couple of years. Its leader Alice Weidel hardly fits the profile of a right-wing extremist: She is a former Goldman Sachs banker, publicly gay and active in LGBT causes.
Even if the grand coalition succeeds, it will be a placeholder in a political stalemate whose most likely outcome will be an alliance between the CDU/CSU, the Free Democrats, and a scrubbed AfD. In the short-term, a grand coalition will tend to support accommodation for the European periphery, but will not be in any position to undertake European structural reforms.