Bernhard Miller, Wolfgang C. Müller
Managing Grand Coalitions: Germany 2005–2009

German Politics, 2010: 19, issue 3-4, pp. 332–352

Grand Coalitions are a specific type of government known in Austria and Germany as the cooperation of the main competing parties in government, rallying behind the governments' vast parliamentary majorities. Grand Coalitions subject their partners to specific challenges in terms of achieving party goals and demands on their policies. This, in turn, increases the demands on coalition governance. The article analyses how the Grand Coalition under Angela Merkel has coped with the problems of coalition management. In so doing it compares its management mechanisms with those employed by the German Grand Coalition of the 1960s and the many Austrian cabinets of this type. It measures the level of intra-coalition conflict and shows how coalition management instruments have been employed to mange or resolve conflict. Specifically, it shows that the coalition committee was summoned more frequently when conflict levels were up and that most of the Grand Coalition's key decisions had already been contained in the coalition agreement. Yet not all plans were fully implemented. Overall the Grand Coalition enacted important reforms. While failing to meet the high expectations a Grand Coalition raises because of its capacity of overcoming resistance, it did well when considering the constraints specific to Grand Coalition governance.