After 60 days of discussions, negotiations for a new governing coalition have failed in Germany, leaving the country without a government.
Last September’s general election – in which the far-right obtained an unprecedented and alarming result – left no party with an absolute majority, forcing incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel to look for partners to form a new government.
Given that the Social Democratic Party (SPD), led by Martin Schulz, had said it would refuse to be part of any new Merkel-led government, the only option left for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader was to form an alliance with the Greens and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).
This option was scuttled however, when the FDP unexpectedly left the negotiating table. The official reason given was that there was no agreement on crucial domestic and foreign policies.
During the negotiations, the FDP had attempted to impose its ultra-liberal policies on transport, infrastructure and energy, in return for its eventual support for CDU’s policies on immigration and foreign affairs (namely, quotas for migrants and refugees, and maintaining military ties with Saudi Arabia).
Both Merkel and the Greens expressed their disappointment with the FDP’s decision, with Merkel adding that, despite these difficulties, the CDU will form a government.
However, there is no doubt that the breakup with the FDP is a serious blow to Merkel’s political ambitions.
At this point, Merkel is left with only three options.
The first is to form a minority government with external support from the Greens. However, this is not Merkel’s preferred option as it would leave the government in a weak and unstable position.
The second option would entail the SDP reconsidering its position and accepting a new “Grand Coalition” with the CDU. However, Schulz, who is convinced that the SPD cannot again be a crutch for Merkel’s political agenda, has shown no signs of wanting to shift his position.
Third, there is the possibility that early elections could be held in March or April next year. However, most of the parties want to avoid this scenario. Early elections are no guarantee for political stability and could result in a further legitimisation of the neo-Nazi outfit, Alternative for Germany (AfD).
For now, Merkel faces an uphill battle to maintain her position as Chancellor, a post she has held since 2005.
No doubt Merkel will attempt to muster all her political skills to try to bring the FDP back to the negotiating table or perhaps even persuade the SPD to accept a new grand coalition.
The latter cannot be ruled out. Schulz was the biggest loser in the last elections and the SPD could ask him to step down in order to allow a grand coalition government to be formed in the name of the country’s stability.
The prospect of early elections is one that frightens almost everyone in the political establishment, starting with Merkel, who knows that her party could lose even more voters to the far right.
However, the reason why Merkel and her party do not want the far right to grow is not because the AfD represents a threat to democracy and social justice, but because the AfD’s rise could affect Germany’s political and economic interests.
After all, the complete lack of ethical and political values from European conservatives, liberals and moderates is nothing new.
As things stand, the future of Germany (and with it the whole of Europe) does not look bright.
On the one hand, we have a scenario where Merkel remains chancellor with the support of so-called moderate forces (which could include the social democrats).
On the other hand, there is the real and present danger that reactionary and neo-Nazi forces could gain further ground from which to continue disseminating racial and political hatred and strengthen the likelihood of a far-right-led Europe.
Far-right parties already have important popular support (and, in some cases, are in government) in many European countries, such as Ukraine, Hungary, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic. The spectre of neo-fascism also represents a serious threat in countries such as Italy, France and Greece.
The people of Europe cannot afford to underestimate the political strength of these neo-fascist and neo-Nazi forces and must immediately intervene to eradicate them.
Rise of far right
The rise of the far right is a result of rising discontent generated by decades of neoliberal policies. In this context, neo-fascists have presented themselves as a radical alternative to neoliberalism and as advocators of fair economic and social policies.
In reality, they are nothing but violent oppressors. History has shown that fascism always leads to injustice, violence, hatred and repression.
There is no shortage of examples: the fascist Benito Mussolini regime in Italy, the Nazi regime in Germany, the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship in Chile and, more recently, the current Ukrainian and the Hungarian governments.
The truth is that neoliberalism and neo-fascism both represent the side of the oppressors against the oppressed. They have done it throughout history and will do it again, because that is the fundamental core of their political view.
The only way people can obtain real social and economic justice, and put an end to exploitation and discrimination, is through socialism.
Today, more than ever, the world is at a crossroads: socialism or barbarism.