Scholz Should Stay the Course

Olaf Scholz
German finance minister and Social Democratic Party leader Olaf Scholz attends a debate in parliament in Berlin, July 8, 2018 (Deutscher Bundestag/Inga Kjer)

Germany’s Christian Democrats are panicking. I wrote here last week that the unimpressive Armin Laschet is dragging Angela Merkel’s party down. All the opinion polls published since then have put the Social Democrats in the lead with 23 to 27 percent support, compared to 19-22 percent for the conservatives. The Greens and liberal Free Democrats are in third and fourth place.

Until a few months ago, the expectation in Berlin was that the Christian Democrats would swap the Social Democrats for the Greens in the next government. Now a two-party coalition is unlikely, and there is even a chance the Christian Democrats will lose power altogether. Read more “Scholz Should Stay the Course”

Laschet Is Dragging Germany’s Christian Democrats Down

Armin Laschet
German Christian Democratic party leader Armin Laschet campaigns in Osnabrück, August 18 (Dirk Vorderstraße)

It’s too soon to tell you I told you so. The German election is still a month away. But it is starting to look like the ruling Christian Democrats made a mistake nominating Armin Laschet, the prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, for the chancellorship.

Laschet would succeed Angela Merkel, who is not seeking a fifth term after sixteen years in power.

I argued in December and April that Markus Söder, the prime minister of Bavaria, was the better candidate.

The Christian Democrats misread the national mood. They looked at Merkel’s high approval rating and thought Germans wanted more of the same. They don’t. Söder could have given the conservatives a fresh start. Read more “Laschet Is Dragging Germany’s Christian Democrats Down”

What’s at Stake in the German Election

German parliament Berlin
Facade of the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany (Unsplash/Fionn Große)

Germans elect a new Bundestag on September 26. Outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel is not seeking reelection after serving four terms. Her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is polling in first place, but the left-wing Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens are not far behind.

Three more parties (counting the union of Merkel’s CDU and Bavaria’s Christian Social Union as one) are expected to win seats: the center-right Free Democrats (FDP), the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the far-left Die Linke.

The outgoing “grand coalition” of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats is unlikely to defend its majority, and the former rivals are wary anyway of forming another two-party government after sharing power for twelve of the last sixteen years.

All other parties rule out pacts with the AfD. The Greens, who are projected to be the biggest winners of the election, would be needed in all possible coalitions:

  • Union + Greens + FDP: Failed in 2017, when the liberals balked. Could be a modernizing, pro-EU government that seeks technological solutions to the climate crisis.
  • Union + SPD + Greens: Less attractive to the Christian Democrats on labor and tax policy, but the Union and SPD see eye to eye on protecting industries and jobs.
  • SPD + Greens + FDP: Makes less sense for the FDP, who would face opposition from the center- and far right.
  • SPD + Greens + Linke: Politically risky for SPD and Greens, who want to appear moderate, and difficult policy-wise on defense, EU and relations with the United States.

Here’s where the four mainstream parties stand on ten of the issues at stake in this election. Read more “What’s at Stake in the German Election”

Judges Need to Know Their Place

Supreme Court The Hague Netherlands
Seat of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands in The Hague, February 3, 2016 (Rijksvastgoedbedrijf/Bas Kijzers)

European judges have discovered they can compel politicians to take action against climate change.

France’s Council of State has given the government of Emmanuel Macron an April 2022 deadline (one month before the election) to ensure the country will meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990.

Germany’s Constitutional Court issued a similar ruling in April and gave the government an end-of-year deadline to update its policy.

A Dutch court has gone further, ordering Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, to reduce not just its own carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent but those of its customers and suppliers as well.

It’s like we’re living in a kritocracy. Read more “Judges Need to Know Their Place”

Germans Long for Change

Armin Laschet
Armin Laschet, the minister president of North Rhine-Westphalia, attends a meeting of the Bundesrat in Berlin, Germany, December 18, 2020 (Bundesrat/Sascha Radke)

Germans want change. 61.5 percent would like to see a different government after the election in September, according to an Allensbach Institute poll; the highest share in thirty years. 67 percent believe it is time for a course correction in policy.

The findings are sobering for the ruling Christian Democrats, who have nominated the more-of-the-same Armin Laschet for the chancellorship. The prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia proposes continuity from sixteen years of Angela Merkel. (I think the conservatives should have nominated the far more popular and semi-outsider Markus Söder of Bavaria.)

They are also the reason support for the Greens has been trending up. Recent surveys put the party — which has never been Germany’s largest — neck and neck with the center-right. Read more “Germans Long for Change”

Why Germany’s Greens Are on the Rise

Angela Merkel Annalena Baerbock
German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with Green party leader Annalena Baerbock in parliament in Berlin, January 16, 2020 (DPA)

Germany’s Greens have for the first time in two years overtaken the ruling Christian Democrats in the polls. Two surveys in the last week gave them 28 percent support for the election in September against 21 to 27 percent for the center-right.

Those polls are still outliers, but the gap between the parties has been narrowing across surveys for months.

I suspect two factors are at play: leadership and a desire for change. I’ll take those in turn before laying out the different ways in which the Greens could take power. Read more “Why Germany’s Greens Are on the Rise”

German Right Picks Unpopular Laschet to Succeed Merkel

Armin Laschet
Armin Laschet, the minister president of North Rhine-Westphalia, gives a speech in the Bundesrat in Berlin, Germany, December 14, 2018 (Bundesrat/Sascha Radke)

Armin Laschet will lead Germany’s Christian Democrats into the September election. His rival, Markus Söder, bowed out after the executive committee of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the larger of the two “Union” parties, threw its weight behind Laschet in a late-night vote.

Following seven hours of debate about whether and how to vote, 31 of the committee’s 46 members backed Laschet in the early hours of Tuesday.

The alliance of the CDU, which competes in fifteen of Germany’s sixteen states, and Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) does not have a formal procedure for electing its joint chancellor candidate. Read more “German Right Picks Unpopular Laschet to Succeed Merkel”

Söder Can Give Germany’s Christian Democrats Fresh Start

Markus Söder
Bavarian state prime minister Markus Söder delivers a news conference in Munich, Germany, March 9 (Bayerischen Staatsregierung)

Bavaria’s Christian Democrats have called for a poll of elected party officials to select the conservatives’ joint chancellor candidate for the election in September.

Leaders of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which competes in fifteen of Germany’s sixteen states, have thrown their weight behind Armin Laschet, the prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia.

But many conservatives across the country think they stand a better chance with Markus Söder of Bavaria, who leads the state’s Christian Social Union (CSU).

They’re right. Read more “Söder Can Give Germany’s Christian Democrats Fresh Start”

Don’t Blame Laschet for Poor State Election Results

Armin Laschet
Armin Laschet, the minister president of North Rhine-Westphalia, attends a meeting of the Bundesrat in Berlin, Germany, December 18, 2020 (Bundesrat/Sascha Radke)

It’s easy to blame Armin Laschet for the German Christian Democrats’ slide in the polls. Since he was elected party leader in January, support for the center-right has fallen from 35-37 to 28-31 percent — still enough for first place, but the Greens, Social Democrats and liberal Free Democrats are all up.

The three might even win a majority between them, raising the prospect of the Christian Democrats being ejected from power when Angela Merkel steps down later this year.

Laschet bears some responsibility, but it’s hard to imagine how another leader could have avoided two disappointing state election results last Monday. Read more “Don’t Blame Laschet for Poor State Election Results”