A day after Germany's conservatives unexpectedly failed to garner a clear majority to form a new government, party officials and pundits -- scrambling to find the reasons -- began pointing fingers in several directions.
Will Angela Merkel survive?
While the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), seemed set to become the biggest party in Germany's next parliament, conservative chancellor candidate Angela Merkel was left without a clear option for a likely partner to form a government coalition.
According to preliminary results, Merkel's group will hold 225 seats in parliament, followed closely by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democratic Party (SPD), which will get 222 seats. The free-market liberal Free Democrats came in at 61 seats, followed by the new Left Party, which is made up of disgruntled Social Democrats and ex-communists (54 seats) and the Greens (51 seats). A late election in Dresden on Oct. 2 could technically still shift the ratio and make the SPD the largest parliamentary faction.
Blame the tax ma n
On Monday morning, Paul Kirchhof, the man blamed by many for the CDU/CSU's unexpected poor result, reportedly withdrew from his short stint in active politics. According to an opinion survey by pollster Forschu n gsgruppe Wahle n , 68 percent of voters said that Merkel's decision to include the controversial Kirchhof in her election campaign team had harmed the CDU.
Leading CDU politicians also were quick to criticize Kirchhof's role during the election campaign.
"Some people, such as Kirchhof, don't know when to speak and when to remain silent," Elmar Brok, a member of the European parliament, told the Berli n er Zeitu n g. "In the end, people were more scared of Kirchhof than Hartz," Brok added, referring to the red-green government's controversial social wefare reforms.
CSU politicians, struggling to come to terms with a relatively bad election result in Bavaria of 49.3 percent, also said that Kirchhof had been the wrong choice.
"We had a difficult standing in terms of our tax policy from the beginning," said Michael Glos, who will likely lead the smallest parliamentary group with 46 members.
Ba n ki n g o n bad polls
A second reason for the conservative's low result had to do with its dream coalition partner, the FDP.
FDP leader Guido Westerwelle (center) celebrates on Sunday
Fearing a possible grand coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD and convinced by opinion polls that showed conservatives with a comfortable lead compared to the SPD, about 1.1 million CDU voters decided to cast their second vote for the FDP, giving the smaller party an unexpectedly high result: about 41 percent of FDP voters said they actually favored the CDU, according to polls.
While they wanted to ensure a CDU/CSU coalition with the FDP by doing so, they seem to have made this highly unlikely now. While a so-called Jamaica coalition, named after the parties' colors, between CDU/CSU (black), FDP (yellow) and Greens is technically possible, it seems an unlikely option.
While internal critics of Merkel have so far held back with outright attacks on their chancellor candidate, her position has been weakened by the result.
The CDU/CSU's "dismantlement of Angela Merkel is now beginning," the Süddeutsche Zeitu n g wrote in an editorial. "It's rarely happened that a supposed winner has been disgraced like this."
Will Merkel remain the CDU's face?
And while only 9 percent of voters said they would have supported the CDU/CSU with a man from a western German state at the helm (as opposed to Merkel, who comes from the former East Germany), it might have made all the difference with the current result in mind.