Mixed colours: on Germany's new coalition

For the first time in 16 years, Germany will have a Social Democrat as Chancellor with three parties from opposite ends of the political spectrum agreeing to form a coalition that will end the era of Angela Merkel. In the run-up to the elections, not many expected that Olaf Scholz, leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) that is a junior partner in Ms. Merkel’s coalition, would succeed her. The SPD, Germany’s oldest political party that placed itself as a centrist platform with a focus on social security measures, has faced an identity crisis of sorts as Ms. Merkel emerged as the country’s quintessential centrist leader. On the other side, a relatively new leftist party, Die Linke, ate into the SPD’s traditional leftist base. This year’s election, whose main theme was to pick Ms. Merkel’s successor, opened political opportunities. While Ms. Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) tried to turn the Chancellor’s popularity into votes with the message of continuity, the SPD, under Mr. Scholz, who is the Finance Minister in the outgoing government, promised incremental reforms, including higher spending, while not completely disowning Ms. Merkel’s legacy. Results showed that he was more successful than his contenders in persuading reluctant voters. After taking a narrow lead over the CDU, the SPD started coalition talks with the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) to form a ‘traffic light’ coalition (named after the colours of the parties). The pace and the discipline with which the parties announced the coalition suggest that they are serious about forming a stable government.

‘Traffic light’ coalition | Socialists, liberals and Greens — all together


Each party has gained and conceded something in the coalition agreement. The SPD got the green light for its proposal to raise minimum wages from about €10 to €12 an hour. It has also proposed to build some 400,000 housing units to cool the housing market. The parties also agreed to phase out the use of coal for electricity production and increase the share of renewables to 80%, by 2030. In return for the FDP’s support for their spending and climate agenda, the Social Democrats and Greens agreed not to raise taxes. While the coalition agreement clears the way for government formation, it does not mean that governance would be smooth for Mr. Scholz. He lacks Ms. Merkel’s popularity and has to lead a diverse coalition that was formed based on convenience and compromise rather than any ideological commonality. Germany also faces economic, political and geopolitical challenges — from the COVID-19 crisis to cracks in the EU and challenges emanating from an aggressive Russia. His success as an administrator would depend on his ability to balance the competing agenda of the three parties and to put forward a common governance programme for Germany.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 7:58:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/mixed-colours/article37760288.ece

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