Coalition deal in Germany

Remember that Germany had it’s election the same weekend New Zealand did, back in September last year. There were complaints here about how long it took us to have a government formed – it took about 4 weeks. It has taken the German parties nearly five months, and it’s not a done deal yet.

Deutsche Welle: Germany’s Angela Merkel finally reaches coalition deal with SPD

After protracted talks, Angela Merkel’s conservatives have made a deal with the Social Democrats for a new coalition contract in Germany. The SPD confirmed this in a message to its members, who will have the final say.

Wednesday’s key developments

  • The SPD, CDU and CSU have agreed in principle on a coalition deal, but a vote of SPD members still awaits.
  • SPD to now have three major portfolios: finance, foreign affairs and labor.
  • Bavaria’s CSU, which advocates a tougher line on immigration than Chancellor Merkel, takes over the Interior Ministry.
  • Merkel’s CDU gains the Economy Ministry and smaller posts, but is giving up the influential Interior and Finance ministries.

Negotiators from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU); their Bavarian partners, the Christian Social Union (CSU); and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) have finally hashed out a contract for a new grand coalition government — probably ensuring that Angela Merkel will stay in office for a fourth tenure as German chancellor.

The SPD leadership confirmed initial reports of a deal in a group WhatsApp message to its members: “Tired. But satisfied,” it said, adding that final details were now being added to the text of the contract, which would then be assessed by the SPD negotiating team.

It’s not over yet.

SPD negotiators have spent the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s deal trying to convince skeptics within party ranks that they had won significant concessions from their conservative partners. SPD members will have the final say on whether to accept the coalition agreement in a vote to take place by post in the coming weeks.

Regional party officials have reported several thousand new members joining the party ahead of the vote, taking the ranks past 460,000. If the voters approve the deal — and it could well be close — Merkel could then appoint a Cabinet and the parties could sign the coalition contract. Then, if all goes to plan, Germany would have a new government by Easter.

Easter is six months after the German election. The country seems to have managed to survive in leadership limbo, but if this deal falls through then Germany would just about have to go to the polls again..

Parts of the deal that may be of interest here:

 

Immigration:

One of the most contentious issues was dealt with fairly early in negotiations: The two sides agreed  last week that the number of immigrants brought to Germany via family reunification would be capped at 1,000 a month (for those with subsidiary protection) — the same figure that was set out at the end of exploratory talks a few weeks ago — and that the current suspension on reunions would end on July 31. Cases of “extreme hardship” would also be allowed to apply for family reunion, beyond the quota.

Refugee rights organizations such as Pro Asyl argued that this was a cosmetic difference anyway, as the exception has already been in place for the past two years and was only invoked in about 100 cases last year. Hundreds protested outside the Reichstag in Berlin last week as the measure was passed in parliament.

Europe:

The three parties have agreed that the European Union needs “more investment,” specifically in the shape of an investment budget for the eurozone. That deal was celebrated by the SPD as “an end to the austerity mandate” across the European Union, but it remains to be seen how the details pan out. The parties also promised a special focus on reducing unemployment among young people and “fair taxation of companies — especially the internet giants Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon in Europe.”

Arms exports: 

The two sides have agreed to tighten Germany’s arms export controls — last updated in 2000 — and will specifically exclude all countries taking part in the war in Yemen. This would be a significant change, as it would mean that Saudi Arabia, historically one of the best customers for German arms outside the EU and NATO, will no longer be receiving German weapons.

The civil war in Yemen has had a low profile here but started nearly three years ago, in March 2015. As with other conflicts in the Middle East it is complicated, both within the country and internationally.

Neighbouring Saudi Arabia has been condemned for bombing civilian targets. A coalition military operation led by the Saudis has had US intelligence and logistical support.

Preliminary coalition agreement in Germany

Germany had their elections the same weekend as our general election in New Zealand, in September last year.

It took a few weeks to sort out a coalition agreement, a confidence and supply agreement and an functional Government. Jacinda Ardern as sworn in as Prime Minister on 26 October.

It’s taking a lot longer in Germany, where a preliminary coalition agreement has just been made.

Der Spiegel: Progress for Merkel In Search for a Government

An end to Germany’s leadership vacuum may finally be in sight as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats reached a preliminary agreement on Friday morning. But there are plenty of hurdles still left to clear.

It was a grueling night for Christian Democratic Union (CDU) head Angela Merkel, Christian Social Union (CSU) leader Horst Seehofer and SPD chair Martin Schulz. Indeed, it seemed at times as though it would never end. The talks, aimed at determining whether there was sufficient agreement among the three parties to begin formal coalition negotiations, had begun 24 hours earlier on Thursday morning.

Merkel called the 28-page document a “paper of give and take, as it should be.”

Seehofer, who leads the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, said he was “extremely satisfied.”

And Schulz, who hosted the talks, even went so far as to speak of an “outstanding result.”

Germany still doesn’t have a government — the talks that concluded on Friday morning were merely to determine if a coalition was possible — but the three party heads made it sound like most of the hurdles had been cleared.

Despite the positivity, however, the talks were extremely tough, with some of the news that leaked out during the night seemingly indicating that the talks were on the verge of collapsing — just as the first attempt to form a government did several weeks ago. Schulz, though, denied on Friday morning that failure had been imminent. “They were never on a knife’s edge,” he said, to Merkel’s agreement.

The fact that the three parties were able to reach a tentative agreement after less than a week of talks is hardly a surprise. After the initial round of coalition talks failed in November — negotiations that involved the CDU, CSU, Green Party and Free Democrats — Merkel’s conservatives are eager to establish a stable government as rapidly as possible.

After publicly ruling out a coalition with Merkel following the election last September, and repeating that rejection in late November, the Social Democrats ultimately realized that there was no alternative to seriously considering another alliance with the conservatives.

The pressure had simply become too great, particularly from German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Furthermore, the idea of new elections was particularly unappetizing for the Social Democrats.

It is not over yet, there are still hurdles to overcome.

SPD head Schulz, meanwhile, will embark on Monday on a mini-tour through Germany to speak to the party base — a trip that promises to be a difficult one. The party is extremely wary of yet again playing second fiddle in a Merkel-led government, and without approval from delegates to the special party convention set to take place a week from Sunday in Bonn, the SPD will be unable to enter formal coalition talks.

Merkel’s conservatives don’t face such difficulties. It is seen as a virtual certainty that CDU and CSU leaders will authorize their party heads to enter formal coalition talks. The two parties are eager to finally set up a stable government.

Schulz isn’t just fighting for a coalition with Merkel and Seehofer, he is also fighting for his own future as party head. If the convention should vote against formal coalition negotiations with the conservatives, he would likely be forced to step down — and the party’s entire senior leadership would come under pressure to do the same.

That, in turn, would put Merkel’s own hold on power to the test: Two failed attempts at assembling a government could prove to be too much to withstand.

And Seehofer would be in the same boat.

In comparison, our negotiations circus with Winston Peters as ringmaster seems to be quaint and distant political history.

A CDU/CSU coalition with SPD is a bit like National/ACT forming a coalition with Labour.


German parties involved:

Christian Democratic Union (CDU) / Christian Social Union (CSU)

Leaders: Angela Merkel (CDU)/Horst Seehofer (CSU)

Voters: People over the age of 60, churchgoers, living in rural areas – especially in southern Germany – still represent the hardcore of CDU and CSU voters. The CDU has also traditionally done well among small business owners and people with lower or medium education levels.

2017 Bundestag election result: 33 percent (246/709 seats)

History: The CDU was founded in West Germany in 1950 in the aftermath of World War II as a gathering pool for all of Germany’s Christian conservative voters. It became the most dominant political force in the post-war era, unifying Germany and leading the government for 47 of those 67 years, alongside its Bavaria sister-party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

CDU Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who governed from 1949 to 1963, is the closest the Federal Republic has to a founding father. It was Adenauer and his economy minister (and successor as chancellor), Ludwig Erhard, who presided over West Germany’s “economic miracle.” The party’s reputation as Germany’s rock of moral and economic stability continued under another long-term CDU chancellor, Helmut Kohl, who drove German reunification in 1990 – a key historic moment important in understanding today’s politics.

Social Democratic Party (SPD)

Chairperson: Martin Schulz

Parliamentary leader: Andrea Nahles

2017 Bundestag election result: 20.5 percent (153/709 seats)

Voters: The SPD has traditionally been the party of the working classes and the trade unions. The SPD’s most fertile ground in Germany remains in the densely-populated industrial regions of western Germany, particularly the Ruhr region in North Rhine-Westphalia, as well as the states of Hesse and Lower Saxony.

History: The SPD was founded in 1875, making it Germany’s oldest political party. In the tumultuous first decades of the 20th century, the party acted as an umbrella organization for a number of leftist movements, trade unionists, and communists. But with the founding of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in 1919, the SPD became the permanent home of the social justice reformers, rather than the revolutionaries – though that didn’t stop its politicians from being sent to concentration camps during the Third Reich.

The SPD’s first chancellor, Willy Brandt, governed West Germany from 1969 to 1974. He earned an international reputation for reconciliation with Eastern Europe during his time as foreign minister in a CDU-led coalition government. He was succeeded by Helmut Schmidt, an SPD icon until his death in 2015. Both remain hugely respected figures in German politics. Altogether, the party has been part of the German government for 34 of the 67 years of the Federal Republic and led governing coalitions for 21 of those. Though its reach has eroded significantly in the past few years, it was still behind some of Merkel’s most significant social reform policies during her third government, which has just ended.

Source: Deutsche Welle – Germany’s political parties CDU, CSU, SPD, AfD, FDP, Left party, Greens – what you need to know