Saturday

28th May 2022

Election means three-party German government likely

  • SDP leader Olaf Scholz said he had a clear mandate to form a government, having emerged in first place - although with only 25.7 percent of the vote (Photo: Council of the European Union)
Listen to article

Germany seemed to have caught up with the rest of Europe: fragmented political landscape after the elections, month-long coalition negotiations in the making, and the two biggest parties losing their outright dominance on the political stage.

Sunday's race to succeed chancellor Angela Merkel failed to produce a clear winner, with Olaf Scholz's centre-left Social Democrats (SDP) barely beating Armin Laschet's centre-right Christian Democratic (CDU/CSU) alliance, but with both only getting around a quarter of the votes.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The two main rivals both have said they will try to head the next government. But the splintered election result means that either will need both the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats to form a majority.

The Greens have traditionally been more aligned with the SPD, while liberal leader Christian Lindner had previously said he preferred a coalition with the conservatives.

Both kingmaker parties are now keeping their options open, and Lindner suggested they should be talking to each other first and decide how to proceed.

"The German political system is gradually moving toward a system with more different parties, but not in a revolutionary way," Dr Katrin Böttger, director at the Berlin-based Institute for European Politics told EUobserver, adding this is a trend rather than an exception.

She noted that two "popular parties" remained the two largest factions in Bundestag, but that it also became clear that the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is here to stay.

Böttger said all the parties are "constructively" looking for a government that will be likely be headed by Scholz.

This will be the first three-way coalition in Germany since the 1940s, she noted.

It will be a challenge for Lindner to team up with SPD, as his pro-business party vowed not to raise taxes and to restore limits on borrowing. Both would be tough demands for the Social Democrats and the Greens, both of which want to boost spending and tax the wealthy.

In 2017, it was Lindner who pulled the plug on a three-way coalition with Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Greens, but Böttger expected the FDP leader will want to avoid repeating the same scenario.

Böttger said it will come down to how the ministry portfolios will be distributed, and if party leaders can bring their members on board.

She said a plausible outcome could be that the Greens get the foreign ministry and the FDP get the finance minister post under a Scholz chancellory.

Unlike in other European parliamentary democracies, in Germany, it is not the head of state - currently president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who hails from the SPD - who picks a designated leader, who then tries to form a coalition.

It is the parties themselves who will first attempt to come to an agreement.

Four years ago, Angela Merkel needed almost six months to bring together a grand coalition with the Social Democrats. In the end, the SDP did need a little nudging from Steinmeier to enter that coalition.

Meanwhile, if this time talks drag on beyond Christmas, Merkel will surpass Helmut Kohl to become Germany's longest-serving postwar chancellor.

Whats does it mean for EU?

Protracted coalition talks mean a prolongation of difficult conversations in the EU too, at a time of a packed EU agenda: decisions will have to be made on the new deficit and debt rules, climate and migration policy, and the EU's role in the world.

However, with French elections coming up next spring, major decisions are likely to be held off until then, not primarily because of German coalition talks.

Böttger argued that once there is a government in place in Berlin, it should speed up internal coordination among coalition partners on EU policy issues, to have a clear German position at the European level.

Böttger also said she hoped the new government would "take a leap of faith and invest more in the EU", and move towards other member states' positions to find common ground.

She highlighted migration, where Germany could take a step towards southern European countries' position, or foreign policy, where Germany could move toward a more common position.

"Germany has to be a bit more visionary and brave, not so narrow-minded and be able to find package deal solutions," she said, highlighting cooperation with France.

Interview

An economist on 'elephant-in-room' at German election

Economist Shahin Vallée says Germany has the resposability to lead the European debate on fiscal reforms in the face of the climate crisis. If they don't take up the mantle, the EU will continue failing during further crises.

No clear winner to succeed Merkel in Germany

Both the centre-left and centre-right candidates to replace Angela Merkel as German chancellor have claimed the right to go ahead after an inconclusive election.

Livestream

German foreign policy in an era of transformation

Participants will discuss the most important foreign policy challenges for a new German government and Europe. What should Europe expect from German foreign policy under a new government – continuity or change?

Orbán's new state of emergency under fire

Hungary's premier Viktor Orbán declared a state of emergency due to the war in neighbouring Ukraine hours after pushing a constitutional amendment through parliament, where two-thirds of MPs are controlled by his Fidesz party, allowing his government special powers.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us