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September 18, 2005
Stalemate In The Bundestag

As I predicted earlier today, the election in Germany has produced no clear winner. Instead, the Bundestag will have five parties represented, and neither Angela Merkel nor Gerhard Schroeder have a clear path to the Chancellery as a result:

As Sunday turned to Monday in Berlin, preliminary election results gave little indication as to who might be Germany's next chancellor. According to the results, released by German news agency DPA, Chancellor Gerhard Schrder's Social Democrats (SPD) received 34.3 percent. Conservative challenger Angela Merkel, chancellor candidate for the so-called "Union" -- made up of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) -- got 35.2 percent of the vote.

An unofficial forecast by German public broadcaster ZDF predicted that Merkel's Union would thus have 224 seats in the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, against 221 seats for Schrder's Social Democrats. Another forecast made by public TV station ARD gives the SPD 222 seats. Given Germany's voting law which allows voters to vote both for individuals in their districts and for political parties on a state level, the SPD could add up to 10 more directly elected seats -- so-called "overhang mandates" -- against three such mandates for the Union.

In the end, as David at Medienkritik notes, it comes to 225-222 in favor of Merkel's Union, but it isn't enough to form a government, not even in minority. For Merkel, the news could get worse. Schroeder's SPD still could gain as many as 10 seats in by-elections, while the Union only might gain three -- which would put them back in a slim minority to Schroeder after all.

It will likely take a trio of parties to form a ruling coalition, a rather unwieldy proposition. The Greens will not support Schroeder, but they won't ride to Merkel's rescue either. Neither will the two leading parties combine, as both Merkel and Schroeder covet the Chancellery and neither seem likely to surrender.

The only certainty in Germany is the gridlock that will ensue under these circumstances. Germans will likely blame Merkel, who had the election well in hand, or at least appeared to control it until the last couple of weeks. She let the momentum slip away and now must explain why the Union slipped several points in the home stretch. That failure will probably keep Merkel out of the Chancellery, and it might sideline Germany internationally for the foreseeable future as the Germans try to figure out how to form a government without having a new set of elections.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 18, 2005 11:29 PM

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Tracked on September 24, 2005 11:19 AM

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