"Indians like drama. Our government formation negotiations are also going to be dramatic. But, our drama is limited to getting up to the balcony between lengthy meetings to yawn and crack knuckles."
Germany's ambassador to India, Walter J Lindner, simplifies the process of his country's post-Merkel government formation. Angela Merkel's political bloc narrowly lost to Social Democratic Party in the recently held elections. After serving as Germany's Chancellor for 16 years, it's time for her to step down.
"She told me that she planned to take a holiday and, believe it or not, sleep." Lindner shared about Merkel's future plans.
Will Germany Also See Horse-Trading in the Process of Coalition Building?
"Absolutely no horse-trading is to be expected during the process of putting the ruling coalition in place," the ambassador told The Quint when asked about the possibility of candidates swinging from one party to another.
"A lot of effort goes into the making of the treaty between the parties. For example, the Green party has more extreme views on environmental issues than the Liberals. It's best to put them in the treaty. Sometimes the parties do not agree on issues, when the coalition is not going well, and there is a coalition committee headed by the Chancellor to resolve those. We've seen only coalition governments in the past 70 years, save one exception. So, we really know how to do it," says Lindner about the painstaking procedure of stitching a coalition government together.
The next six-seven weeks are going to be about endless nights of negotiations, he shares. However, these six-seven weeks could very well turn into eight months of debate and discussions like it happened after the last elections in Germany. Lindner was serving as Germany's foreign secretary then.
The outgoing coalition of Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Centre-left Social Democrats governed Germany for eight years.
Germany will either see a "Jamaica-flag" coalition or a "Traffic lights" coalition in power, the ambassador jokes.
The Jamaican flag coalition—a reference to the colours in the flag matching the colours of German parties—will comprise the centre-right Christian Democrats, the free market Free Democrats, and the Greens.
"Traffic lights" coalition, on the other hand, will see the Social Democrats, Free Democrats, and Greens coming together in a partnership.
Till the new government is at the steering wheel, Merkel will continue to be the head of a caretaker government. "Merkel is never a lame-duck," Lindner responded to the American nomenclature of Germany's caretaker government.
India-Germany Relations Under New Government?
Will the new government reset the relationship between India and Germany? The ambassador denies it categorically. "Different coalitions in Germany have been fairly consistent in their attitude towards India. Foreign policy in Germany is defined by security, strategic, and environmental interests and they do not differ greatly from party to party, except the two extremes. The basics will be the same."
He insists that India's importance in the global arena is getting more and more obvious. "Both coalition options will have quite an impetus on India. At 1.4 billion, India will become the most populated country in the near future. None of the international, global issues can be solved without India. Bilaterally speaking, we have very strong ties with India. We are India's biggest trading partner in Europe. The biggest chunk of our aid and welfare funding goes to India."
Lindner also underscores India's growing role in the Indo-Pacific region.
Rise of the Right Wing
"The rise of any Right-wing party is quite worrisome for us in Germany. Look at the dark chapter of our history. We don't take it lightly. In response to Merkel's decision about refugee intake in Germany, there was a surge of support for the Right-wing party. They have now lost quite some of their vote-share but they still stand at 11%. No party, however, is willing to make a coalition with them," the German envoy responds to a question about the rise of far-Right party, Alternative für Deutschland or AfD.
"Luckily, the democratic parties have a huge majority," Lindner says with a visible expression of relief. He says, however, that since the far-Right represents more than 10% of the vote-share, it's not wise to ignore them.
Merkel's coalition bloc is 'conservative' and it is going to be replaced by a liberal one. How would one define the conservative-liberal divide in the German polity to an Indian audience that understands the terms quite differently?
Ambassador Lindner has a ready answer. "Merkel was the head of Christian Democrats. This group, though conservative, has believed in humanitarian and social democratic principles. Merkel was accused of shifting her party from a conservative stance to middle ground. She 'social-democratised' her party. It made things difficult for the SDP as they lost their voters to the CDU who thought, 'If I have Merkel, why do I need to vote for the social democrats'.
"Merkel's stand on the Iran nuclear deal was a 'Green' postulation. To open the country's borders to the refugees was not a conservative decision either. She put her own stamp on the party. Her successor is similar: moderate, centrist," Lindner adds. He also notes that some of the members of the CDU might want their old character back but even this conservatism is nothing like in Spain, for example.