When Olaf Scholz and his unprecedented three-party coalition, called the traffic light – red for the social democrats, green for the environmentalists and yellow for the liberals – started the legislature in December 2021, the main challenge was for the Germany to successfully emerge from the crisis. coronavirus crisis. An era was coming to an end: the 16 years of Christian Democrat Angela Merkel’s mandate and the start of a progressive government with an extremely ambitious social and green program. Two years later, in full mandate, Scholz experienced crises, internal – but public – struggles with his partners and polls which indicated that the majority of Germans were not satisfied with his management.
The worst of these crises is in full swing, coinciding with the annual congress organized this weekend by the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), which has invited the President of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, to give a speech on Saturday. The tripartite will not be able to approve the budgets for 2024 before the end of the year: it is mired in intense discussions on the cuts to be made to fill the hole of 17 billion euros left by a devastating ruling by the Constitutional Court which puts all public finances under control. . This is perhaps the most delicate moment for an unprecedented coalition, in which the Social Democrats and the Greens generally coincide, but in which the Liberals – traditional allies of the Christian Democrats – act as an irritating internal opposition.
If Germans were called to the polls today, the coalition parties would total barely 33 or 35 percent of the vote, far from being a sufficient majority to govern. Meanwhile, the Christian Democrats and the far right are taking advantage of the tripartite popularity crisis. Germans are more critical of government work than ever, says the latest Deutschlandtrend survey, from public television ARD. Only 17% are satisfied with the management of traffic lights; 82% are little or not satisfied. Scholz himself assumes the worst. The chancellor’s reputation has fallen to a historic low since 1997: barely 20% of those surveyed are satisfied with his management.
The perception of the tripartite does not match its achievements
Analysts agree that the constant conflicts between the partners, widely reported by the media, have contributed decisively to tarnishing the reputation of the tripartite. Scholz is seen more as an arbiter between two antagonistic partners than as a leader who makes decisions and knows how to explain them. Added to your communication problems is the feeling that you are not solving it, that you are seemingly waiting for the problem to magically disappear. At least that is the perception of the Germans, which however does not agree with the real achievements of the tripartite during these two years of legislature.
Halfway through his term, Scholz has implemented or at least addressed almost two-thirds of the ambitious coalition agreement he signed with the Greens and Liberals, according to a recent study of the Bertelsmann Foundation. “The public presentation of coalition conflicts leads to an underestimation of the government’s real performance,” notes political scientist Wolfgang Schröder of the thinking group Das Progressive Zentrum, which collaborated on the work with the University of Trier. Out of a total of 453 promises contained in the agreement, 174 have been fully or partially fulfilled and another 55 projects are under implementation.
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Some of the most notable are already a reality: the increase in the minimum wage (from 9.6 euros per hour to 12 euros currently), the reform of unemployment benefits to create the Bürgergeld or citizens’ money, or the new citizenship law, which makes it easier to obtain German citizenship. But in a survey commissioned alongside the analysis, we see how far the perception of citizens, who associate the Government with the idea of a “coalition of conflicts”, is from reality. Only 12% responded that they believed “all, almost all, or most of the promises” could be implemented; 43% assure that only “a small part or almost nothing” will be achieved.
A breakup that doesn’t suit anyone
Despite the coalition’s waning popularity, virtually no one believes it will break up and Germany will head toward early elections. “It could of course happen, but let’s say it’s not likely,” Uwe Jun, professor of political science at the University of Trier (who was not involved in Bertelsmann’s study), says by telephone. “Neither the social democrats, nor the Greens, nor the liberals have anything to gain from breaking the three-party system,” he says. The latter are those who, being almost always against the other two partners, could explore a way out, but this does not suit them either. “They should calculate whether they can get the minimum 5% to enter the Bundestag in the event of new elections. And (Christian) Lindner (FDP leader and Finance Minister) was already in the party when they were excluded in 2013 and the party fell into irrelevance,” he adds.
Who cares about elections? To the Christian Democratic opposition and the far right. The CDU leads the voting intentions with 32%. Alternative for Germany (AfD), which this Friday saw the German secret services officially declare its group in the state of Saxony as “extremist”, is around 21%. The latest ARD poll gives Scholz’s SPD a paltry 14%, which contrasts painfully with the 25.7% obtained in the 2021 elections.
In this context, the 600 Social Democratic delegates sit down to talk about the future of training in Berlin. They come from two crushing electoral defeats in the states of Hesse and Bavaria, the confirmation of deep dissatisfaction with the government’s immigration policy and, more recently, the budget crisis that forced the freeze subsidies and investments essential to the ecological transition. and digital technology of the country. The unease in the party is obvious.
But it is time to look to the future, to the European elections next June and the three key elections in the states of the former Democratic Republic (Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg) which will vote in their parliaments next autumn . At least that’s what the party’s co-presidents, Lars Klingbeil and Saskia Esken, confirmed this Friday, confirmed in their positions for another two years, until the end of the legislature. A repeat of the federal reforms is not even considered among German socialists.
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