This book chapter provides an analysis of cabinet formation after the German election of 22 September 2013. It starts with the observation that the election of 2013 brought a radical change to the German postwar party system as the FDP disappeared from the Bundestag. Given the likely need for more coalitions across the traditional divide between centre-left and centre-right (for example, grand coalitions of CDU/CSU and SPD or new coalitions between CDU/CSU and Greens), the chapter focuses on mechanisms of conflict management. Based on the comparative literature on the issue, he analyses coalition governance in the new grand coalition under Merkel. After the traditional bargaining between party elites, the SPD conducted a vote of all party members for the ratification of the bargaining result. This was an insurance policy for the party leadership vis-à-vis its rank and file, a reassurance for the CDU/CSU that the SPD was really committed to the new coalition, and a relatively successful bargaining tactic on the part of the SPD as it lent credibility to the various 'red lines' formulated by the SPD prior to the negotiations. One key aspect of coalition governance was the allocation of portfolios. Both parties secured control of those ministries whose jurisdictions were crucial to their attempts to claim issue ownership vis-à-vis core voters. After some initial support for the grand coalition, the negotiations were accompanied by growing public scepticism. One key point was that the legislative strength of the new coalition would be overwhelming (with around 80 per cent of the seats in the Bundestag), and that the two opposition parties, the Greens and the Left Party, would be too weak to mount a sustained and effective parliamentary opposition. In addition, media commentators missed the ‘big projects’ which the new government, Merkel III, would tackle. However, the deal the parties agreed on in 2013 seemed more like a package of small, if socially costly, policy measures reminiscent of the collective result of log-rolling. It is also argued that the new coalition is in a precarious situation. Whether it will last its entire term (until 2017) will depend on a number of factors, especially any 'exogenous shocks' that it may be subjected to. In particular, however, it will depend on the parties' constant evaluation of the electoral risks arising from the coalition.
This introduction to the edited volume "Germany After the 2013 Elections: Breaking the Mould of German Politics?" provides a brief factual account of the election and its result. This part is followed by a summary and contextualisation of the individual contributions to this volume.