Tuesday, January 25

The narrow victory of the Social Democrats over the Merkel bloc leaves the German government in limbo


Olaf Scholz of the center-left Social Democrats defeated Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in an extremely tight German election, launching what could be months of complex coalition talks to decide who will lead Europe’s largest economy.

Scholz’s SPD, the favorite in the final weeks of the campaign, got 25.7% of the vote on Sunday, while the bloc led by the Christian Democrats under Armin Laschet got 24.1%, according to provisional results. . Both men said they aim to head the country’s next government and that all parties, including the likely coalition kings, the Greens and the pro-business FDP, will hold separate meetings in Berlin on Monday to discuss next steps.

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To applause from his supporters at party headquarters Sunday night, Scholz said it is clear that voters want him as chancellor. A defiant Laschet insisted that he too will try to form a coalition, although his CDU / CSU bloc suffered its worst result, falling below 30%. “We will do everything we can to form a government,” he told his demoralized supporters.

After 16 years under Merkel’s pragmatic centrist leadership, the result of the vote will have wide implications for Europe and the West. Merkel will remain in office until a new government is established, and if she remains until mid-December, she will surpass Helmut Kohl as Germany’s postwar leader.

The fragmented political landscape means that it will likely take three parties to secure a majority in the German parliament for the first time in decades. A repeat of a “grand coalition” of the SPD and the CDU / CSU is mathematically possible, although both parties have ruled it out.

The key to the formation of a new administration is whether the Greens and the FDP can make a common cause even with markedly different goals in areas such as climate and financial policy.

FDP leader Christian Lindner proposed talks with the Greens before they engage with the two largest parties, while noting that the FDP has more in common with Christian Democrats than it does with the SPD.

Konstantin Kuhle, FDP spokesman on domestic politics, said on Monday on the ARD television breakfast show that although a coalition of CDU / CSU, Greens and FDP is “much more likely” than a few weeks ago, the “strong result” of the SPD had to be taken into account. When asked if the FDP is determined to head the Finance Ministry, he said it is an “important point” for the party.

Anton Hofreiter, who heads the Greens parliamentary group, disagreed with Kuhle’s assessment, saying it had been a “catastrophic personal outcome” for Laschet, and that a CDU / CSU trilogy was not more likely. , Greens and FDP. .

“Ultimately, it’s about having a good coalition” that is capable of tackling challenges like the climate crisis, Hofreiter told ARD. The Greens and the FDP will initially meet in “small groups” to explore what they have in common, he added.

Laschet holds on, but the mood was bleak at the CDU headquarters in Berlin on Sunday night, where activists took in the possibility that the Conservatives were no longer the biggest party.

Several people covered their mouths in apparent disbelief when the exit polls were released and the only moment of slight encouragement came with indications that the SPD will not be able to form a majority with the Greens and the anti-capitalist Left party.

The Greens were in third place with 14.8%, their best result, while the FDP obtained 11.5%. The left plummeted almost in half to 4.9% and support for the far-right alternative for Germany fell to 10.3%.

The proximity of the race underscores the uncertainty facing Europe’s economic engine. Germany’s industrial model is under threat as value shifts away from mechanical engineering, while the country’s exporters risk getting caught up in geopolitical tensions, especially between the United States and China.

A new government will need to address the problems Merkel left behind, including aging infrastructure and a lack of investment in digital technologies. The most pressing problem is diverting its auto industry and energy system from fossil fuels without destabilizing the economy.

“We will fight in the coming days to ensure that Olaf Scholz becomes chancellor,” SPD Secretary General Lars Klingbeil told ARD. “The citizens want that.”

© 2021 Bloomberg


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