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Germany’s Multi-Party State

2021 marked the end of an era within the German government, as Angela Merkel stepped down from the chancellorship after 16 years in office, beginning in 2005. Merkel gained international recognition for her calm demeanor under stress and an analytical approach to problem solving. I remember during the beginning of the COVID pandemic, when I was interning with the US State Department in Germany, hearing her give a speech to the German people. While so much of the world seemed to be in disarray – dazed, confused, terrified – Merkel was composed, action-oriented, and, to such a degree as was possible, confident. With her retirement, the governing coalition of Bundestag (the German Parliament) had to be reorganized.

            While America operates on a strictly two-party system, the German political scene is far more diverse, with no single party ever holding a majority of the popular support. Thus, for a political group to hold a majority sway in parliament, multiple parties must come together to form a leading coalition. This process involves a detailed agreement between multiple parties, with the key offices of government, such as Chancellor, the finance and foreign ministers, being distributed among the member parties of the coalition. The coalition set to take power in the coming days, comprised of center-left, environmentally focused, and business-oriented parties, has been praised for its willingness to compromise in setting a progressive, action-oriented agenda for Germany. While this coalition-based governmental system is not without its challenges, I believe that it speaks to the value to be gained by creating a greater diversity of opinions at the decision-making table and the manifold benefits to be gained by a willingness to compromise. If the coalition succeeds over the coming years, I believe it will be testament to these virtues, and perhaps can begin to influence the polarization and bickering that seems to characterize American politics today.

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