After the tension of the tight samples on the eve of the election and after it became clear that the Social Democratic Party had been revived and won a narrow victory over the Conservatives – the people of Germany, who seem more divided than ever, are preparing for weeks, maybe months, of negotiations.
Possible coalitions are being thrown into the air, conservative politicians are mourning the biggest loss of the ruling party in recent years, and the media and commentators are analyzing the significance of the elections, which took place last Sunday in Germany. Naturally, everyone sums up the years of Angela Merkel’s tenure, which despite disappearing from the media space is still the Chancellor, and hopes that by Christmas a new government will be formed in Germany. Here are four points worth noting now that the political situation in “Europe’s great economy” has changed almost from the edge.
1 . In an eco-liberal line?
This is an image that became iconic as soon as it was published. Four young leaders – two from the “Greens”, two from the “Liberals” – in a well-planned selfie, posted simultaneously on the “Instagram” of all involved. It was released on Tuesday evening, but has meanwhile become the symbol of the 20th election held this week in Germany. The two most popular parties among the young have two different economic worldviews, but with a common role as those who will decide which government will lead Germany. The tabloids are called the “Citrus Alliance”, because of the green-yellow color composition.
This alliance was publicly born on the eve of the election itself. Liberal (FDP) leader Christian Lindner addressed Green Leader Annelna Barbock on television and offered to meet for preliminary talks on “the most controversial issues”. This is even before the Social Democratic Party, which received the majority of votes and won a small victory in the election, will even invite one of them to negotiate. Lindner, who was already in a similar position exactly four years ago, and refused to enter into a coalition with the 2017 model “Greens,” has learned a thing or two since. He turned the dynamics upside down, and the selfie published was intended to illustrate to the German political system and the public in the hands of the power of water, in the authority of the water of initiative.
But political momentum aside, the two parties will have to bridge substantial disagreements to agree on guidelines for a joint government. “It’s not that there are gaps between these two parties,” a political expert told Bild, “there are real abysses between them.”
The “Greens” have rightly been called the “Prohibition Party.” They want to ban the use of the internal combustion engine by 2030, ban polluting vehicles from city centers even before then, close all coal-fired power stations by the end of the decade, impose taxes on meat consumption on the one hand and the rich in Germany on the other and raise inheritance taxes. In general, they are in favor of a huge government expenditure in order to “reward” German industry from dependence on fossil fuels, and bring Germany to meet the climate goals it has set for itself. They promise that this will also involve economic prosperity. “Ultimately, bans are what create innovation,” Barbock explained.
The FDP, on the other hand, a pro-business liberal right-wing party, believes in as little regulation and bans as possible, in small government spending, in a limited public sector and emphatically refuses to increase the deficit permanently or temporarily. Faced with the “green” promises to tax the rich, the Liberals made it clear that one of their red lines was “not to raise taxes”, and even promised to lower them by abolishing the “solidarity tax” imposed since the reunification of Germany.
How, then, are the two parties supposed to agree on tax, budget and climate issues? How can you both lower taxes and fund public investment? Will the power of private investment in climate change increase? And what about the tremendous subsidies needed to promote renewable energies? A large compromise is needed on both sides to reach an agreement. Either this will be formulated by a series of U-turns in terms of policies of both parties, or both sides will agree to ignore the conflicts at the moment, and save them for the future. “It’s like two colliding worlds,” admitted the leader of the “Greens” jointly with Barbuk, Robert The Vacuum, “but there is no way around it.”
While what separates the two parties is nothing less than their election platform, what unites them is the strong desire to enter government. Both parties seek to govern and change policy in Germany. They also unite concern for German citizens’ rights, the need to invest in digitalisation, soft opposition to Merkel’s “aust-politics” towards Russia, and a desire to change the country’s election laws, which inflate the German parliament every re-election.
The selfie was taken after the first meeting of the two parties. If the two parties manage to find a common denominator, an eco-liberal economic line may emerge from Berlin in the coming weeks.
2. End of the “People’s Parties” era
On the face of it, all the political options are on the table. Despite the Citrus Alliance, the Greens announced that they would open preliminary talks with the Social Democrats, and the Liberals announced that they would open talks with the Conservative Party, which suffered its most electoral defeat in this election, receiving only 24.1% of the vote. Before the election, Lindner urged his constituents to vote for the FDP “so that I can be Germany’s next finance minister, not Robert Habeck.” He meant a government led by the Conservatives, but now he is fighting for the same role in leading the Social Democrats. Two coalitions are now on the agenda – “traffic light” led by the SPD or “Jamaica” led by the CDU. They are so named due to the color combination of the parties.
But “Jamaica is just a remote island in the Caribbean,” as Spiegel recently wrote. It is hard to see discussions of such a coalition as more than a ploy by Lindner, designed to signal to the Social Democrats that there is another possibility. That the party will go with whoever is willing to go towards it.
It is even harder to imagine this as long as Armin Lasht is the CDU candidate to head such a coalition. Only 17% of Germans thought before the election that Asht deserved to be chancellor, and now 70% want him to retire from politics, according to recent polls that followed. Beyond the question of the “moral right” of the second-largest party to form a coalition (something that has already happened in Germany), the public – and even the Conservative Party itself – seems to be rejecting this possibility. Embarrassingly, the Conservatives have not yet responded to the Liberals’ negotiating proposal. They consider whether this is appropriate and whether it will not hurt public support for them.
The picture may change if the Conservative Party ousts Lasht and appoints Marcus Zeder from Bavaria in his place. A poll published in parallel with the election results showed that if Zeder had been at the head of the Conservatives, they would have received about 30% of the vote. Either way, the two major parties, which have alternately ruled the German Federal Republic since its inception and usually received more than 40 percent of the vote, must probably adapt to the end of the “People’s Parties” era.
The fact that in the current election three parties competed for power, and even led in the polls at some point, and that voters were willing to change votes according to the identity of the candidates and change parties, shows that the developments that happened in Western Europe a decade ago also reached Germany. This may have happened late because of the super-popular Angela Merkel’s long tenure, along with Germany’s high blocking percentage, but the growing split has been illustrated.
Old parties are collapsing, new parties are taking power. Coalitions are needed to form and the conservative “Chancellors’ Party” or the oldest party in Germany (the Social Democrats were founded in 1863) can no longer feel that the people will give up. “For the first time, we will have a chancellor who is not elected by close to 75% of the public,” Lindner said.
3. Hello to “Black Zero”
It is interesting to see how the Social Democratic candidate Olaf Schultz, with determination and thoroughness, paved the way and reached a point where even his rival, the CSU, to the chagrin of Lasht, admits that he “has the best chance of forming a government”.
In retrospect, the crucial moment was when he was appointed finance minister in Angela Merkel’s broad coalition. Traditionally, the role of finance minister is reserved for the ruling party. But in the previous election, after Merkel failed to form a coalition of three parties (the same Jamaican coalition in question), and was left with the only option of returning to a broad coalition with the Social Democrats, it was clear they would charge a serious price to return from their commitment not to sit with her again. .
The price they demanded was the Ministry of Finance. According to rumors, Merkel conditioned her consent on the person who would serve in the position being Olaf Schultz. History Permit: Schultz managed the economy successfully until the Corona Crisis while enjoying surplus astronomical tax collection due to German prosperity, and opened his pocket only to support the economy in the Corona Crisis. Schultz used the position as a springboard to present himself as the Chancellor’s true pathfinder, all the way to this week’s election victory. But now, if he succeeds in being appointed chancellor, he will have to change direction.
In retrospect, what characterized Merkel’s tenure to the corona plague was maintaining a balanced budget. In 2009, Merkel’s government passed a law that would not allow for a significant deficit. The country prospered, no doubt, tax revenues grew every year, the unemployment rate dropped sharply, the standard of living of the Germans rose relative to their neighbors in Europe, the rate of participation in the work of women rose. At one point, this policy even made Germany one of the few countries that made money as a result of taking out loans. The market paid the German government to give it money.
But the other side of the coin was a lack of investment in infrastructure, an avoidance of modernization, an “addiction” to austerity measures and austerity measures, which in retrospect made Germany unwilling to face the current economic situation and lacking future growth engines. The government investment index as part of GDP has hovered around 2.5% in the last decade, compared to 4% in France, for example, or 3.5% in the UK.
Schultz began parting ways with this policy with the corona measures, which will add about 40 billion euros to the German deficit annually over the next five years. The law regarding the balanced budget was suspended due to dealing with the plague. But Schultz will have to take much bigger steps, in the areas of welfare, infrastructure, investment in education and technology, to make sure Germany grows again at the high pace it has recorded in the past. Economists have estimated the amount needed to invest in Germany at least half a trillion euros, after years of austerity and savings.
When the former German finance minister, Wolfgang Schweibel, resigned and vacated the place for Schultz, office workers stood together in the former parade ground of the Nazi building. Dressed in black suits and lined up in the shape of black zero, nicknamed the policy of a balanced budget. It is doubtful whether this policy will be seen in such a positive light in the future. If there was a mantra that was repeated in this election then it was the need for change. “Not for the same thing,” all the candidates said. Although Merkel is still the most popular politician in the country, the spirit of the time is that her budget policy needs to be changed.
4. Weak Chancellor in Europe
The EU, and foreign policy issues in general, hardly played a role in these elections. Neither in terms of the public interest nor in the statements of the parties and candidates. This can be interpreted as if the EU has become self-evident for Germany, one whose necessity or existence cannot be questioned, or whether it reflects the new nationalism that has emerged in the Corona Age, in which every country looks apprehensively around, abandoned border stations re-populated, and domestic affairs return to the forefront agenda.
But as the declaration of a nuclear submarine alliance between the US and Britain and Australia proves, the world is changing even as EU countries deal with their affairs. The EU as a global player does not have the luxury of waiting and seeing what happens, and how to move forward and act.
The problem that is likely to emerge now is that the leading role of Germany, and of Chancellor Merkel who headed a stable coalition representing the majority of Germans, may now be replaced by a more fragile coalition of three parties, and of a chancellor who did not receive the majority of German votes.
Of the two possible leaders currently, Schultz is much closer to the French vision promoted by President Emanuel Macron regarding the EU – deeper integration, financially and even militarily. Schultz was the one who collaborated with his counterpart in France after Merkel and her party withdrew from their historic opposition to a joint debt of EU companies. In the current campaign, he was invited before Asht to visit the Elysee Palace. Schultz also significantly supports the pan-European military framework PESCO – a plan to establish a joint army and especially for the consolidation of the arms industry.
But even if he succeeds in forming a government, Schultz is likely to be a much more limited chancellor than Merkel. He is considered a right-wing marker within his party, half of whose MPs elected in this week’s elections are new, and in general – more left-wing than the outgoing faction. Only last year the party torpedoed German Air Force drone armament missiles. They are used for observational purposes only. “He will probably do it in first gear with the hand-brakes pulled,” was the conclusion of a political commentator in the Tagagspiegel.