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.
Germany’s two largest political parties lost support in elections in Hessen on Sunday, a lightly populated state in the center of the country that contains the commercial capital of Frankfurt.
The Christian Democrats went down from 38 to 28 percent support, according to exit polls. The Greens, who have shared power with the right in Hessen since 2013, went up from 11 to 20 percent — a major victory, which will probably make it possible for the two parties to continue their coalition.
A three-party “Jamaica” coalition in Germany may not be so bad for Europe as observers fear, writes Guntram Wolff of the Bruegel think tank in the Financial Times.
He recognizes that the liberal Free Democrats are more Euroskeptic than Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Greens. They have opposed Greek debt relief, are wary of a common eurozone budget and argue for strict enforcement the bloc’s fiscal rules.
But that also applies to Wolfgang Schäuble, the outgoing finance minister. His likely Free Democratic successor could hardly be more hawkish.
Center-right voters in Germany hope Angela Merkel’s next coalition government will unite her Christian Democrats and the liberal Free Democrats. But if the Greens are needed for a majority, they could live with that, the latest Deutschlandtrend poll shows.
Green party voters are less interested in a three-party coalition but surprisingly supportive of a deal with the right: 68 percent would join a Merkel-led administration.
The Christian Democrats are almost certain to remain the largest party, but it’s unclear from the polls if the Free Democrats will win enough seats to form a two-party government.
Comparing the platforms of the six parties competing in the German election reveals two divides:
The first is between the traditional left and right on spending and taxes. The Social Democrats, Greens and far-left Die Linke want higher taxes on the wealthy to fund public investment. The Christian Democrats, liberal Free Democrats and nativist Alternative argue for tax cuts.
The second divide is between the four mainstream parties and the extremes on defense and foreign policy. The Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats all support closer European integration and NATO. The Alternative wants out of the euro. Die Linke would swap NATO for a security pact with Russia.
Germany’s Green party walked out on exploratory coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats on Tuesday, leaving her with little alternative to forming a “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats.
Merkel won 41.5 percent of the votes in an election last month that left her party just five seats short of a majority in the lower chamber of parliament. The Greens lost support and finished fourth after Die Linke. Both the Christian and Social Democrats have ruled out forming a government with the latter which is the successor to former East Germany’s ruling communist party. Read more “Greens Leave Coalition Talks, Leaving Merkel With No Alternative”
German Green party members on Sunday defied warnings from their more pragmatic leaders in backing two sharp tax increase proposals, a move that could alienate centrist voters but raise the prospect that a left-wing government can be formed after September’s federal election.
Some eight hundred party delegates gathered in Berlin defied their most successful leader, Baden-Württemberg state premier Winfried Kretschmann, to support a top income tax raise from 42 to 49 percent as well as the introduction of a 1.5 percent wealth tax on assets over €1 million.
Kretschmann had argued in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung that was published on Friday that the combination of the proposed tax hikes would impose an “unreasonable burden” on especially middle income families. He also cautioned his party against ruling out a coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives whom, he agued, “aren’t that far removed” from the Greens.
Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, once a far-left pacifist movement, has reinvented itself as a more cosmopolitan, socially liberal party in recent years, entering a coalition with the conservatives in Hamburg in 2008 and in Saarland the following year.
In May 2011, the party won its first state prime ministership in the traditional conservative stronghold of Baden-Württemberg where Kretschmann, who has also served as the German parliament’s upper chamber’s president since late last year, leads a coalition government with the Social Democrats, still the senior partner on the left nationwide.
Kretschmann, a former chemist, benefited from Germany’s rising anti-nuclear sentiment in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima power plant disaster. Merkel’s conservatives adopted the Greens’ position to shut all of Germany’s nuclear power plants and subsidize renewable electricity generation instead.
Many Green party members remain unconvinced. Former environment minister Jürgen Trittin said that in spite of her government’s environmental policies, “the failure of Merkel on climate change is reason enough to opt out of her coalition.” Referring to tax evasion and corruption scandals that have battered Merkel’s Bavarian sister party in recent weeks, he added, “We’re not going to form a coalition with a band of corrupt amigos like that.”
Opinion polls have consistently put the Greens at between 14 and 16 percent support since the start of this year, replacing Merkel’s liberal coalition party as the third largest in the country. The Social Democrats, however, are struggling to get more than a quarters of the votes while Merkel polls at over 40 percent, making a “grand coalition” between the two the likeliest outcome of September’s election.
The Greens may calculate that there is little for them to gain in the center whereas a more aggressively leftist program could lure voters away from Die Linke, a socialist party that is increasingly confined to former communist East Germany and polls at around 7 percent nationwide. For the strategy to be successful, moderate leftwingers should vote for the Social Democrats instead and give them a plurality big enough to form a majority government with the Greens.
Germany’s Green party, the most electorally successful of its kind in Europe, may enter a coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives after next year’s parliamentary election.
Although the Greens would prefer an alliance with the Social Democrats, with whom they governed the country between 1998 and 2005 under Gerhard Schröder, opinion polls suggest that the two left-wing parties may not gather the necessary majority. The Social Democrats are languished at 30 percent in preelection surveys compared to 39 percent for Merkel’s Christian Democrats. Pollsters put support for the Greens at 13 percent, up from 11 in the last federal election. Read more “Germany’s Greens Consider Coalition with Conservatives”