Germany will have a new government before Christmas, probably the week of December 6. The three parties that are negotiating the formation of a coalition – Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals – met this morning in Berlin to close the last fringes of the agreement, which they will present this afternoon at a convention center in the capital. They will publicize the content of the contract of Government and also the distribution of ministerial portfolios, although party sources assure that the names of those who will occupy them will not be discussed.
The parties of the call traffic light coalition (thus known by the colors associated with the parties: red for the Social Democrats, green for the environmentalists and yellow for the Liberals) have met in recent days also at night to speed up the closing of agreements on relevant points such as policies finance and climate and ministerial posts. The German press has published that one of the last obstacles has been the Health portfolio, because apparently no party had an interest in occupying it. Germany suffers record numbers of infections in its fourth wave after relaxing restrictions in the summer and has one of the worst vaccination rates in Western Europe, 68%. Health powers are in the hands of the federal states, which gives the ministry of the branch in Berlin very little room for maneuver.
The indifference for the Health portfolio contrasts with the battle that has been fought during the negotiations to take over the position of Finance Minister. The second most powerful government post after that of chancellor has fallen to the side of the liberals of the FDP and it is assumed that its leader, Christian Lindner, will occupy it. The Greens also coveted it, considering it a key task to launch the million-dollar climate investments that the country will need in the next four years.
In exchange for handing over the portfolio to Lindner, the environmentalists will obtain a super-ministry of Climate that will encompass competencies until now distributed by other government departments, such as Economy and Energy. The position would be filled by the co-leader of the environmentalists, Robert Habeck. The latest leaks to the German media indicate that the Greens would have five ministries and the Liberals, four. The SPD would head seven departments. It is assumed that Annalena Baerbock, co-leader of the Greens and candidate in the elections, would become Foreign Minister and could also be Vice Chancellor of Scholz. The Health portfolio would remain in the hands of the SPD, according to this information.
Up to 21 members of the three parties are now meeting to outline the agreement that they have already pledged to present this afternoon. All three have issued invitations to the press for three in the afternoon. The agreement must be voted on later. In the case of the SPD and the FDP, it will submit to the opinion of their congress, while the Greens will ask all their affiliates if they support what was agreed by their leaders.
If the planned schedule is finally met and the Social Democratic candidate and still Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz is elected by the Bundestag the second week of December, that will mean that the outgoing Chancellor, Angela Merkel, will not exceed the record of tenure at the head of the German Government. He would have to stay until at least the 17th to equal Helmut Kohl’s days in office. This morning, before what has probably been her last Council of Ministers, Merkel received a large bouquet of flowers from Scholz as a farewell and thanks for her work at the head of the country for the last 16 years.
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Formal coalition negotiations began on October 21, which means that the three parties have needed little more than a month to reach an agreement. Since the general elections, which were held on September 26, just over 70 days will have passed until the appointment of the new government. The last time, after the 2017 elections, it took 171 days to form the so-called grand coalition between Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD). Then the attempt to form a tripartite between CDU, Liberals and Greens failed because the Liberals got up from the negotiating table when their demands were not met.
After elections that showed the great fragmentation of the political landscape, it was immediately clear that the Greens and the Liberals were going to have the key to the new Government. The two largest parties, the CDU and the SPD, each got about a quarter of the votes, while the Greens achieved their best ever result with 14.8% and the Liberals came in third with 11.5%. of the votes. Neither Christian Democrats nor Social Democrats wanted to repeat a grand coalition, so a tripartite was the most viable option. The CDU tried to lead a coalition despite losing the elections with its worst historical result, 24.1%, but Greens and Liberals decided to try an agreement with the SPD, which obtained 25.7%.
Despite their initial huge differences on issues such as finance and climate policies, greens and liberals have managed to bring positions closer and make concessions to move the agreement forward. In mid-October the three parties agreed on a minimum document that was the basis for the negotiations. Among other things, they agreed to increase the interprofessional minimum wage to 12 euros per hour – Scholz’s electoral promise – and not to raise taxes – the main demand of the liberals -, in addition to leaving an early outlet for coal almost closed, as the Greens wanted.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.