The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

Angela Merkel, the Grand Coalition, and “Majority Rule” in Germany

in German Politics and Society
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  • 1 Political Science, University of Missouri, St. Louis
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Angela Merkel has not only been repeatedly ranked “the world’s most powerful woman;” she is also the only German chancellor since 1949 to have successfully led her party to a “normal” victory after a full term heading a grand coalition from 2005-2009. Merkel’s ability to lead has been shaped by the dynamics of coalition politics, proportional representation, and German federalism. Perceived as a more successful leader under an exceptional grand coalition than under a typical cdu/csu-fdp constellation, Merkel provides a one-woman-laboratory for comparing the impact of different coalition modes on the chancellor’s powers and limitations on her ability to rule. The study offers a two-level analysis, comparing Merkel’s performance atop a “gender balanced” Grand Coalition (2005-2009) with Hans-Georg Kiesinger’s male-dominated Grand Coalition (1966-1969). It then contrasts leadership dilemmas confronting Merkel during her first term with those arising during her second chancellorship, 2009-2013. It urges scholars to “bring the institutions back in” when considering the skills female leaders must evince in order to manage divergent coalition types: grand coalition configurations may, in turn, require men to adopt leadership behaviors usually ascribed to women in order to prove effective cross-party managers.

Contributor Notes

Joyce Marie Mushaben is a Curators’ \Professor of Comparative Politics, and former Director of the Institute for Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Generously funded by the daad, the Fulbright Commission, the Ford Foundation, the German Marshall Fund, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, inter alia, her research publications include: Identity without a Hinterland? Continuity and Change in National Consciousness in the German Democratic Republic, 1949-1989 (Washington, 1993); From Post-War to Post-Wall Generations: Changing Attitudes towards the National Question and NATO in the Federal Republic of Germany (Boulder, 1998); The Changing Faces of Citizenship: Integration and Mobilization among Ethnic Minorities in Germany (New York, 2008); and Gendering the European Union: New Approaches to Old Democratic Deficits (Basingstoke, 2012), co-edited with Gabriele Abels. Her current book-in-progress is titled Becoming Madam Chancellor: Angela Merkel and the Berlin Republic (forthcoming 2016).