Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Goodbye Chancellor Merkel, Hello Chancellor Merkel

The joke in Berlin ahead of Germany’s vote on Sunday was that the country’s long-serving chancellor, Angela Merkel, would have to delay her retirement from politics, and deliver the traditional New Year’s address to the nation in January.

And it looks likely.

Germany is facing months of horse-riding and wrangling over the formation of a coalition government following the result of a federal parliamentary election that disappointed all parties, although Merkel’s Conservatives were most disappointed. The Christian Democrats, the CDU, along with their affiliated Bavarian Christian Social Union, suffered their worst ever general federal election result and were defeated by the left-leaning Social Democrats, the SPD.

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But even for SPD, the results did not quite meet expectations. The hopes of Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats were boosted in recent weeks by his surge in opinion polls, which saw him lead his centre-right rivals, who have been in power about 6% for the past 16 years.

According to provisional election results, the lead was cut to 1.6%, a margin enough to declare a moral victory, but not enough to dominate post-election wrangling over the formation of a governing coalition. Across the country, the SPD won 25.8% of the vote, while the CDU and CSU received a combined 24.1%, down from 32.9% in the previous Bundestag elections in 2017.

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Scholz, the outgoing finance minister, said on Sunday, as the results began to come in, that his party was “now given a very clear mandate to ensure that we put together a good, workable government for Germany.”

Olaf Scholz, the top candidate for chancellor of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), speaks during a news conference at the party’s headquarters on September 27, 2021 in Berlin, Germany.

“The voters of this country have determined that the SPD is rising on every chart, and that’s a huge success,” he said.

limbo

But the election leaves Germany in political limbo and the parties set for a protracted gladiatorial battle that most analysts do not expect to be resolved until next year before the identity of Merkel’s successor as chancellor becomes clear.

The leader of the CDU, the governor of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, indicated on Sunday that he meant working harder to succeed Merkel as chancellor. Stating that his party’s loss of votes was “not pretty,” he told his deflated supporters we would do everything possible to form the government. Lachette said: “Germany now needs a coalition for the future that modernizes our country.”

He said, “We must set a course for 2020. No party can do this on its own, and so what we now need is a great effort of will from all Democrats: we must put aside our differences and Germany must be held together.”

Merkel will remain acting chancellor until Lashet or Scholz, the county’s current finance minister, wins a parliamentary majority. It is going to be a challenging endeavor, with the option of a two-party alliance going off the table.

CDU and SPD insiders discount the possibility of Lachette and Scholz forming a governing coalition together, which would in any case require the defection of a handful of third-party MPs to gain a majority in the Bundestag. Lashet himself said on Sunday that such an alliance was not possible. “We need a real fresh start,” he told supporters.

Therefore, the CDU and the SPD are faced with an ideologically mismatched three-party ruling coalition – for more than the first half century – with the left-wing Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats, the FDP.

Speaking to supporters in Berlin on Monday, Scholz said, “The voters have spoken frankly. They have said who forms the next government by consolidating three parties, the Social Democratic Party, the Greens and the Free Democrats. As a result, this The clear mandate given by the voters of the country is that these three parties should form the next government.”

Both the SPD and the Greens are a natural fit for raising taxes on the affluent and reviving a property tax, which was abolished in 1997. But the FDP is a natural fit for the CDU and its leader Christian Lindner is unlikely to agree to any tax increases and wants tax cuts for businesses.

He has also made clear that he wants Germany to return to pre-pandemic limits on government spending, while the Greens want to borrow $586 billion for public investment and a tougher carbon tax.

A senior FDP politician, Volker Wissing, told reporters last week: “For example, when it comes to tax increases, we say very clearly ‘no’ to the proposals of the SPD and the Greens. We do not impose any wealth tax. Will not give any relaxation in loan break [on government borrowing] or any restriction on the internal combustion engine.”

The Green Party came third with 14.6%, followed by the FDP with 11.5% and the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany, the AfD, with 10.4%. The Greens had expected a huge jump, and at one point even snatched a lead in opinion polls during the election campaign, but they saw their vote share increase by 6% from the 2017 federal election.

The leader of the FDP party, Christian Lindner, departs after attending a TV broadcast on the parliamentary elections in Berlin on September 26, 2021.

The leader of the FDP party, Christian Lindner, departs after attending a TV broadcast on the parliamentary elections in Berlin on September 26, 2021.

While the FDP saw a modest 1% increase, Lindner is widely seen by political insiders as the key to building a three-party coalition and has already shown he is ready to stick to the red lines. In 2017, she touted Merkel’s efforts to form a coalition government that ousted the SPD, saying “it is better not to rule than to rule unfairly.”

And Lindner, 42, indicated Monday that he does not see his party – or the Greens for that matter – as junior partners who should take on those offered by the SPD or CDU. In the TV debate after the election, Lindner said, “About 75% of Germans did not vote for the next chancellor’s party. Therefore, it may be advisable … that the Greens and the Free Democrats speak to each other first. Everything that follows,” he said.

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Nation World News Desk
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