German Elections: Rocky road for 'coalition of losers'

IT WAS a night when both sides wanted to be winners. That was possible - but only because both were losers, too.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl was beaming when he appeared at Christian Democrat (CDU) headquarters in Bonn yesterday evening, with his wife Hannelore, to be greeted with enthusiastic cheers. A few minutes later, a smiling Rudolf Scharping, leader of the opposition Social Democrats (SPD), appeared at its nearby headquarters with his wife Jutta - and he, too, was greeted with cheers. Partly, this was the SPD's attempt to put a brave face on defeat in the federal elections. After all, the CDU and its coalition partners kept their majority in parliament - and that, it could be argued, is all that matters.

None the less, Mr Kohl's position is much less rosy than he would like to suggest. He and his allies are stronger than the combined opposition by only a tiny handful of votes. His party's share of the vote is down, as is that of his coalition allies, who escaped electoral extinction by less than 2 per cent. This, said Mr Scharping last night, is 'a coalition of losers'.

Nor was that just sour- grapes rhetoric. Traditionally, governments in Bonn have not been directly voted out at election time. Instead, changes have taken place (from CDU to SPD, and from SPD to CDU) with shifts of balance within coalitions, and within the government. In that respect, Mr Kohl's tiny majority leaves the government vulnerable. The current opposition may, in future, have to be brought on board.

Mr Kohl was quick to emphasise the advantages of a small majority, saying: 'It's easier to keep discipline.' In reality, however, he will be under pressure on all sides. As the SPD was eager to point out, this is the Christian Democrats' worst result since 1949. More importantly, the SPD has increased its majority in the second parliamentary chamber, the Bundesrat - made up of representatives of the 16 states, or Lander.

The consensual system means parliamentary decisions need to be approved by the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. In the east German states of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Thuringia, weakened CDU-led governments will probably have to form grand coalitions with the SPD after the disappearance in those two Lander yesterday of the FDP (assuming that the SPD does not join hands with the PDS to create SPD-led regional governments; Mr Scharping last night made it clear he will be keen to prevent such a collaboration).

The Bundestag-Bundesrat relationship means deals are constantly struck between government and opposition. Mr Kohl may come to be increasingly dependent on Mr Scharping's goodwill.

Asked last night about co- operation, the Chancellor and his SPD challenger were conciliatory. Mr Kohl said: 'Parliamentary battle is one thing - factual discussion is something else.' Asked if he was ready for a chat and a drink with Mr Kohl, Mr Scharping replied: 'If he offers a good red wine, why not?'

people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
voicesBy the man who has
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

SEN (SLD/PMLD) Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Currently looking for teachers ...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?