What’s in Germany’s “Traffic Light” Coalition Agreement

Olaf Scholz
German finance minister Olaf Scholz attends a debate in parliament in Berlin, July 8, 2018 (Bundestag/Inga Kjer)

Germany’s Social Democrats, Greens and liberal Free Democrats are ready to govern. Two months after the federal election almost to the day, they unveiled a 177-page coalition agreement that lays out their program for the next four years.

Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Olaf Scholz, who would succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, described the deal as the “biggest industrial modernization of Germany in more than 100 years.” It calls for major investments in decarbonization and digitalization.

Free Democratic Party (FDP) leader Christian Lindner would succeed Scholz at the Finance Ministry, despite his party being the smallest in the “traffic light” coalition (named after the parties’ colors).

The Greens get climate and foreign policy, and the right to nominate Germany’s next EU commissioner. (Unless the conservative Ursula von der Leyen is reelected as commission president.)

Here are the highlights. Read more “What’s in Germany’s “Traffic Light” Coalition Agreement”

The Return of European Social Democracy

Olaf Scholz
German Social Democratic Party leader Olaf Scholz attends a conference in Berlin, June 25 (PES)

Olaf Scholz has given German social democracy a new lease on life. For the first time in sixteen years, his Social Democratic Party (SPD) — Germany’s oldest — has defeated the center-right Union of Christian Democrats. Support for the SPD went up from 20.5 to 26 percent in the election on Sunday. Still below its pre-reunification heights, when it would routinely win up to 40 percent, but enough to make Scholz the most likely next chancellor.

His counterparts in Portugal and Spain have been equally successful. António Costa was reelected with 36 percent support in 2019. Pedro Sánchez won two elections that year. Both govern with the support of the far left. Four of the five Nordic countries are led by social democrats. The fifth, Norway, soon will be, after Labor won the election two weeks ago.

It wasn’t so long ago that commentators ruminated on the “death of European social democracy,” myself included. Now it’s back in swing in the north, south and center. What changed? Read more “The Return of European Social Democracy”

Merkel’s Party Loses German Election, Left and Liberals Gain

  • Outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats lost the election on Sunday.
  • The center-left Social Democrats (SPD) became the largest party for the first time since 2005.
  • The Greens and liberal Free Democrats (FDP) made gains.
  • Three parties will probably be needed to form the next German government. Read more “Merkel’s Party Loses German Election, Left and Liberals Gain”

Scholz Should Stay the Course

Olaf Scholz
German finance minister Olaf Scholz attends a debate in parliament in Berlin, July 8, 2018 (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”

What’s at Stake in the German Election

German parliament Berlin
Reichstag 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 may not defend its majority. More importantly, neither wants to form 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 and foreign relations.

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”

Can Olaf Scholz Make Germany’s SPD Great Again?

Olaf Scholz
German finance minister Olaf Scholz attends a debate in parliament in Berlin, July 8, 2018 (Bundestag/Inga Kjer)

Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) has named Finance Minister Olaf Scholz as its candidate for chancellor.

It’s not hard to understand why. Scholz is the country’s second-most popular politician after Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is due to step down next year.

Can he make the SPD great again? Read more “Can Olaf Scholz Make Germany’s SPD Great Again?”

Germany’s Social Democrats Elect Left-Wing Leaders

Earlier this month, I argued that lurching to the left would be a risky strategy for Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), but that the alternative — continuing to rule in a grand coalition with the center-right — is too.

A change could scare off centrist voters, who have an alternative in Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats or Germany’s pragmatic Green party. But the grand coalition has wearied leftists, who have an alternative in the Greens and the far-left Die Linke.

Not making a choice has been worst of all. The SPD has fallen below 15 percent support in recent surveys, behind the Christian Democrats and Greens and neck and neck with the far-right Alternative for Germany. Read more “Germany’s Social Democrats Elect Left-Wing Leaders”

Lurching to the Left Is Risky for Germany’s SPD. So Is the Alternative

Olaf Scholz
German finance minister Olaf Scholz attends a debate in parliament in Berlin, July 8, 2018 (Bundestag/Inga Kjer)

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) are increasingly forced into coalitions with the far left. Such pacts haven’t hurt their counterparts in Portugal and Spain, but Germany is a more conservative country with a politics of consensus and arguably less need for redistributive policies.

The risk is that a left-wing strategy will alienate centrist voters. But the alternative — continuing to rule in grand coalitions with the right — is wearying leftists. Read more “Lurching to the Left Is Risky for Germany’s SPD. So Is the Alternative”

Hessen State Election Confirms National Political Trends

Frankfurt Germany
Aerial view of Frankfurt, Germany (Unsplash/Jan-Philipp Thiele)

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.

The Social Democrats, who govern with the Christian Democrats nationally, suffered yet another historic defeat. Their support fell from 31 to 20 percent, their worst result in Hessen ever. Read more “Hessen State Election Confirms National Political Trends”

Germany’s Social Democrats Understand They Need to Pick Side

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) recognize they should have picked a side.

In a damning analysis of the party’s dismal 2017 election performance — support fell to a postwar low of 20.5 percent — outside experts argue that the campaign lacked “substantive profile”.

The SPD has failed for years to find answers to fundamental questions and to position itself clearly and unequivocally. Whether on the issue of refugees, globalization, internal security or the diesel scandal: the party leadership always tries to please everyone.

The trouble with trying to please everyone, as I’ve argued before, is that you likely end up pleasing no one. Read more “Germany’s Social Democrats Understand They Need to Pick Side”