Germans at the polls: Merkel is likely to need another coalition

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German elections, scheduled for Sunday, are deucedly complicated because there are, in effect, two determining events.

The first is how many votes the three major parties and many minor parties will get. The second, due to the fact that no one party will win a majority, is what coalition of parties will be put together after the elections to govern the country.

The outcome of the first question, based on polls and general impressions, is that Chancellor Angela Merkel, seeking her third five-year term, and her center-right Christian Democratic Union, which works in tandem with Bavaria's Christian Social Union, will get the largest number of votes. Bavaria voted last Sunday. The polls show 40 percent for the CDU at this point.

Ms. Merkel suffers the normal amount of criticism within German politics, some personal, some policy-related, but the general impression inside and outside Germany is that she is Europe's most competent, durable and sensible leader. Compared to France's President Francois Hollande and United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron, for example, Ms. Merkel -- in no small part based on the economic health of her country -- is a tower of strength. She also stands up well in comparison to other world leaders, including Russia's Vladimir Putin, China's Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama.

It is Germany's willingness under her careful leadership to play the key role in efforts within the eurozone to save countries such as Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain from tumbling into the abyss that has kept that monetary union -- and perhaps the European Union itself -- on the rails. She has even made the weak performers take their austerity medicine as the price of getting outside help. The Germans call her "Mutti" -- in effect, "Mama."

The alternatives to Ms. Merkel and center-right CDU/CSU leadership -- the Social Democrats, the Greens or some combination of them and other odd parties -- do not fill American or other hearts with anticipatory joy, although Ms. Merkel herself governed during her first term with a grand coalition of German parties.

The Sept. 22 results are important to Germany, America and the world, given Germany's continuing stabilizing effect on European and world economies through its continuing stolid, solid performance. Ms. Merkel and the CDU will almost certainly finish first -- economic strength, low unemployment and world respect weigh strongly in German elections. What comes in the second, coalition-building stage remains a question.



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