News 2008


German envoy briefs mediators on grand coalition

Daily Nation


15. 02. 2008


Germany Minister of State, Mr Gernot Erler, at a news conference on Thursday. With him is German ambassador, Mr Walter Lindner.

Germany has proposed a grand coalition as the best answer to Kenya’s political crisis.

And German minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office Gernot Erler has been in Kenya since Tuesday, briefing members of the Kofi Annan-led mediation talks on how the coalition works.

Mr Erler said the negotiators had taken great interest in the idea and that he provided them with a copy of the German-style coalition and constitution.

Key positions

Under grand coalition, Mr Erler told journalists on arrival from Kilaguni Lodge where the talks have been going on, the party with a majority in Parliament takes key positions like prime minister and Speaker of National Assembly.

In Germany, he said, there were also deputy prime minister and vice-Speaker positions occupied by the second strongest party.

Other positions including key ministries are shared proportionally but only the two strongest parties form a grand coalition.

‘‘If the chairman of Foreign Affairs committee comes from one party, the minister should from the other party.

The most important thing is to have a system where you can balance at all levels. One party should not dominate,” he said.

The prime minister, he said, plays the major role in the Government and executive while the president plays a representative role.

But in France’s grand coalition, he added, the president yields more control.

His country, Mr Erler said, embraced grand coalition in 2005 after 40 years after a tight election that saw one major party get 224 MPs and the other 222, so that neither had proper control in Parliament.

Mr Erler, however, warned that it was not easy for two parties that competed during campaigns to come together after elections.

His country, he added, had a special committee whose members include the chancellor, leaders of parties and a spokesman of Parliament.

The team addresses any problem that arises and advises the government.

“Sustainability and success of grand coalition is very important,” he said.

Mr Erler added that a grand coalition usually faced high expectations from the electorate.

If formed, he said, a coalition needed to be publicised for the electorate to know how it worked.

Outcome of talks

Mr Erler is also deputy chairman of the Social Democratic Party parliamentary group responsible for foreign policy, security, development, human rights, humanitarian aid and coordinating the group’s international work. He was slated to return home Thursday night.

German ambassador Walter Lindner, who was also at the meeting, said his government was focusing on the announcement of the outcome of the Annan talks and he did not want to speculate on what should be done if negotiations collapsed.

He said grand coalition needed mutual trust and confidence of players for success consensus.