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New Possibilities or Permanent Gridlock? The Politics of Economic and Social Policy Reform under the Grand Coalition in Germany

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Abstract:

The grand coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) under Chancellor Angela Merkel (2005-2009) was nothing more than an arithmetical necessity which both partners would have liked to avoid. In many policy areas (including taxes, health and the labor market) the prospective coalition partners had pushed for very different solutions during the electoral campaign in 2005. Therefore, many observers expected policy gridlock to become a permanent feature of German economic and social policy making during the Grand coalition.
On the other hand, both parties had had to cooperate with each other for some time already during the previous government when the Social democrats were in power (together with the Greens) while the Christian democrats controlled the Bundesrat, Germany’s powerful second chamber. And this informal Grand coalition was able to adopt rather far-reaching labor market and welfare state reforms between 2002 and 2005. Therefore, a number of other experts hoped that the Grand coalition could build on this cooperation and adopt further structural reforms to the tax and welfare systems. They argued that cooperation should be even easier to achieve under a formal Grand coalition given that now both coalition partners depended on a successful government record for future election results. Furthermore, the large majority in the Bundestag and a majority in the Bundesrat could present a rare window of opportunity for these kinds of reforms. Not surprisingly, the new chancellor herself subscribed to this view in her first policy statement when she termed the newly formed government a “coalition of new possibilities”.
The proposed paper discusses to what extent these two competing views are correct for economic and social policy making. The empirical results turn out to be mixed. The more far-reaching, successful reforms were either responses to pressing problems or were pushed through by strong ministers who had the backing of the chancellor. In the absence of these two factors, gridlock prevailed because the partners of the Grand coalition lacked a common policy project and were unable to suspend the routine patterns of policy making, particularly the fierce electoral competition between themselves.

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reform (91), coalit (71), polici (60), govern (56), feder (51), tax (51), grand (45), econom (27), 2010 (26), der (24), increas (24), market (24), new (24), also (24), merkel (23), 2005 (23), 2008 (23), fer (22), chang (22), rate (22), zohlnh (22),
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Association:
Name: Seventeenth International Conference of the Council for European Studies
URL:
http://www.ces.columbia.edu


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p399908_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Zohlnhoefer, Reimut. "New Possibilities or Permanent Gridlock? The Politics of Economic and Social Policy Reform under the Grand Coalition in Germany" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Seventeenth International Conference of the Council for European Studies, Grand Plaza, Montreal, Canada, <Not Available>. 2014-11-27 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p399908_index.html>

APA Citation:

Zohlnhoefer, R. "New Possibilities or Permanent Gridlock? The Politics of Economic and Social Policy Reform under the Grand Coalition in Germany" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Seventeenth International Conference of the Council for European Studies, Grand Plaza, Montreal, Canada Online <PDF>. 2014-11-27 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p399908_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: The grand coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) under Chancellor Angela Merkel (2005-2009) was nothing more than an arithmetical necessity which both partners would have liked to avoid. In many policy areas (including taxes, health and the labor market) the prospective coalition partners had pushed for very different solutions during the electoral campaign in 2005. Therefore, many observers expected policy gridlock to become a permanent feature of German economic and social policy making during the Grand coalition.
On the other hand, both parties had had to cooperate with each other for some time already during the previous government when the Social democrats were in power (together with the Greens) while the Christian democrats controlled the Bundesrat, Germany’s powerful second chamber. And this informal Grand coalition was able to adopt rather far-reaching labor market and welfare state reforms between 2002 and 2005. Therefore, a number of other experts hoped that the Grand coalition could build on this cooperation and adopt further structural reforms to the tax and welfare systems. They argued that cooperation should be even easier to achieve under a formal Grand coalition given that now both coalition partners depended on a successful government record for future election results. Furthermore, the large majority in the Bundestag and a majority in the Bundesrat could present a rare window of opportunity for these kinds of reforms. Not surprisingly, the new chancellor herself subscribed to this view in her first policy statement when she termed the newly formed government a “coalition of new possibilities”.
The proposed paper discusses to what extent these two competing views are correct for economic and social policy making. The empirical results turn out to be mixed. The more far-reaching, successful reforms were either responses to pressing problems or were pushed through by strong ministers who had the backing of the chancellor. In the absence of these two factors, gridlock prevailed because the partners of the Grand coalition lacked a common policy project and were unable to suspend the routine patterns of policy making, particularly the fierce electoral competition between themselves.


Similar Titles:
The Role of Policy Weights on Economic Outcomes; Why Coalition Governments Can Make Policy Changes

“Leverage, policy ideas, and economic policy change. Some notes about the Peruvian case of neoliberal economic reform.”

The Influence of Policy Ideas and Non-State Actors in Economic Policy Change - An Analysis of the Peruvian Case of Neoliberal Economic Reform


 
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