German Coalition talks

by Jonas Wolframm
Quick overview on the German coalition talks and profiles of future health decision makers

The schedule for Jamaica

The Green Party (BÜNDNIS 90 / DIE GRÜNEN) seems to be eager to start coalition talks soon. Last Saturday the party released their list of participants for first exploratory talks with the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and the Liberal Party (FDP). As of now, 14 green politicians will take part in the exploratory talks namely Annalena Baerbock, Angnieszka Brugger, Reinhard Bütikofer, Katja Dörner, Robert Habeck, Britta Haßelmann, Anton Hofreiter, Michael Kellner, Winfried Kretschmann, Simone Peter, Claudia Roth, Jürgen Trittin, Kathrin Göring-Eckhardt and Cem Özdemir.

Especially Habeck and Kretschmann are deemed supportive of Jamaica-Coalition with Habeck being part of such an alliance in the state of Schleswig-Holstein and Kretschmann leading a green-black government in the state of Baden-Württemberg. On the other hand, party veteran Jürgen Trittin has already openly shown his skepticism towards the alliance citing comments of CSU-politicians regarding Germany's refugee policy as a major hindrance for future talks.

In contrast to the Green Party, the Liberal Party has no interest in sending a huge group of party members into exploratory talks. According to a news article in the Tagesspiegel, only Chairman Christian Lindner, FDP-General Secretary Nicola Beer, and Vice-Chairman Wolfgang Kubicki are supposed to take part in future talks. Fun fact: the 80 newly elected MPs of the Liberal party have recently been going through a 3-day-boot camp to get learn what it takes to be a Member of the Bundestag. The measure makes sense, considering that two-thirds of the MPs are completely new to the job.

Looking at the CDU/CSU, both parties don´t seem to be in hurry. A first exploratory meeting between the two sister parties is scheduled for 8th October. Both parties are planning to reach an amicable agreement regarding the strategy for the upcoming coalition talks until mid-October. However, momentarily it is far from clear how such a strategy could look like with the CSU pushing for a definite cap for asylum seekers. The Green Party has already reminded the CDU that such a policy would be the end of all Jamaica-Coalition-related dreams. Per Kubicki, the slow start of the CDU/CSU will most likely prolong coalition talks until after Christmas.

Different opinions have also risen about the modus operandi of the coalition talks. Whereas the FDP and the Green Party want to have bilateral talks first, the CSU has made it clear that all involved parties must sit at the table at the same time. “The FDP and the Greens shouldn´t think that they can meet beforehand and contrive who gets which position”, said Alexander Dobrindt, CSU group leader. Moreover, he expressed his general skepticism calling the Jamaica-Coalition not a project but an experiment.

The future of Wolfgang Schäuble

Whilst many spectators were focusing on the upcoming coalition talks, Chancellor Angela Merkel also had to deal with a very important personnel decision. Two days after the election Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble told Merkel in private that he would accept a role as parliamentary president and step down from his current position. Schäuble´s concession could be of real value during the coalition talks since the Liberals are already showing serious interest for the Ministry of Finance.

The view from the opposition

Since the Social Democrats (SPD) has directly after the election vowed to go into opposition, the party is finding itself in a rebuilding process. This includes first and foremost the replacement of the current leading staff of the party. In a first step, SPD-members of the Bundestag elected Andrea Nahles as Leader of the SPD-Parliamentary Group. Katharina Barley, currently Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Woman, and Youth, will fill the void left by Nahles and act as Minister of Labor and Social Affairs until a new government is appointed. The move is regarded as a sign that the party is likely to move left in the near future. This could be supported by a possible left-leaning future general secretary. The current SPD-General Secretary, Hubertus Heil, has signaled that he won´t continue to fill the position. However, the fact that former top-candidate Martin Schulz remains Chair of the Party and that Carsten Schneider, member of the conservative wing of the party, has been elected to the function Parliamentary Manager has led to doubts over the parties’ willingness to implement real change.

Apropos of change, since the election day, two grassroots movements have formed aiming to lead the SPD into the 21st century and to reform traditional inner party workings. SPD++ a movement which is supported by several Members of the Bundestag criticized in a statement that the current structures are excluding young party members from taking part in decision-making processes. Both movements can be interpreted as an attack on the privileges and the power of mid-level party officials. It will be interesting to see how much support they can gather in the coming days and months.

Meanwhile, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), Germanys second biggest opposition party, continues to make negative headlines. After Co-Chair Frauke Petry left the parliamentary group and announced her plan to leave the party last week, this week Mario Mieruch, MP, and Vice-Chair of the AfDs state section in NRW has also announced to leave the party citing a drift to the right.

While the AfD is drifting to the right, the Left Party (Die LINKE) is going nowhere. After losing the title of the main opposition party to the SPD and also losing many voters to the AfD, Die LINKE is currently fully occupied by post-election-analysis.

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