Germany’s Right-Wing Press Decries Social Democrats’ “Victory”

Conservatives criticize Angela Merkel’s concessions, but the left isn’t happy either.

German chancellor Angela Merkel attends an event in Laatzen, March 4, 2008
German chancellor Angela Merkel attends an event in Laatzen, March 4, 2008 (Sebastian Gerhard)

Germany’s right-wing press interprets the coalition agreement Chancellor Angela Merkel has struck with her Social Democratic rivals as a victory for the left.

But leftwingers aren’t satisfied either, seeing the accord — which will form the basis for the next four years of government — as still a largely conservative document.

Livid

The conservative Bild tabloid is livid, wondering on its front page, “How much will you pay?”

Columnist Hugo Müller-Vogg sarcastically congratulates the Social Democrats on their victory, chastising the right for “capitulating” on what he sees as the two main issues: the minimum wage, which the conservatives agreed to introduce, and dual citizenship, which will be made available to the children of immigrations who are born in Germany.

The country’s more respectable conservative press echoes Müller-Vogg’s sentiment.

Die Welt describes Wednesday’s deal as a “surprising victory” for Sigmar Gabriel, the Social Democratic Party leader. “Rarely has anyone succeeded in getting so much from such a poor election result.”

According to Der Spiegel‘s Roland Nelles, “The coalition agreement does not reflect the election results.”

Merkel’s conservative parties almost secured an absolute majority while the Social Democrats improved only 2.7 percent on their 2009 election performance, which had been their worst in postwar German history.

“Clearly, Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer,” the leader of her Bavarian sister party, “were afraid of the Social Democrats’ base and their membership vote,” Nelles writes.

Party faithful will decide whether to accept or reject the coalition agreement next week.

Something for everyone

Der Spiegel‘s main criticism is that the parties were unable to bridge their ideological divides. Rather than spelling out a compelling vision for reform, the coalition deal has a little something for everyone.

The Social Democrats get a minimum wage, early pensions for workers and limits to temporary work contracts.

The conservatives get to keep taxes low and won’t have to change their European policy from its emphasis on structural reforms designed to improve member states’ competitiveness.

Liberals skeptical

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung‘s Berthold Kohler also describes the deal as a “potpourri” of conflicting interests that indiscriminately spreads social benefits around to keep each party’s constituency happy.

His liberal business newspaper is skeptical that without tax increases the parties can make good on their promise to start paying off Germany’s debt in 2015:

The burden of social policy decisions for pensions and health care as well as labor market regulations could run into the tens of billions.

The new minimum wage and limits to temporary work could cost Germany as many as two million jobs — which would not only inhibit growth but tax revenue and social security contributions as well.

Left-wing criticism

Even the leftist Süddeutsche Zeitung is dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive tax and immigration reform.

The newspaper also laments the lack of improved privacy protection in the wake of revelations about American spying in Germany.

Die Zeit, another leftist daily, is relieved that at least the pro-business Free Democrats won’t stay in government for another four years and argues that the “political pendulum is swinging back” to the left.

But its political editor, Ludwig Greven, maintains that Germany still doesn’t have much of a foreign-policy vision:

This coalition, like he last one, doesn’t have a clear sense of what Germany’s role in the world should be after the war in Afghanistan ends.

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