Germany’s Social Democrats win election but uncertainty beckons

1. German Elections
German finance minister, vice-chancellor, and the Social Democrats’ candidate for chancellor, Olaf Scholz, delivers a press statement at the party’s headquarters in Berlin on September 27, 2021, one day after general elections. (Photo: AFP)
BERLIN  — Germany slipped Monday into a period of political unpredictability after the Social Democrats (SPD) narrowly won a general election but faced a rival claim to power from outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative camp.اضافة اعلان

For a country synonymous with stability after 16 years of Merkel’s steady leadership, the coming weeks and months promise to be a rocky ride as both Finance Minister Olaf Scholz’s SPD and the conservatives led by Armin Laschet scramble for coalition partners.

The power struggle risks putting Germany out of play on the international scene for some time, even though the upcoming COP26 climate summit will be demanding action from the world’s biggest powers.

Europe’s largest economy will also hold the presidency of the G7 club of rich nations next year, and will need a government capable of setting the international agenda.

European markets nevertheless heaved a sigh of relief, climbing after the tight results, predicting that a government led by either the SPD or the CDU would bring continuity in economic policy.

The results

Preliminary official results showed that the center-left SPD narrowly won the vote at 25.7 percent, while Merkel’s center-right CDU-CSU bloc sunk to a historic low of 24.1 percent. 

The Green party placed third at 14.8 percent, its best result yet but still short of expectations.

Laschet, 60, took responsibility for his side’s poor showing and vowed “renewal in all areas”.

But he insisted that “no party” — not even the SPD — could claim a mandate to govern from Sunday’s outcome, as he said he was ready to head a coalition.

Scholz, 63, said the conservatives belonged in the opposition.
“The CDU and CSU have not only significantly lost votes, but they have essentially received the message from citizens — they should no longer be in government, but should go into the opposition,” he said. 

Shrugging off the uncertainties in the quest for a governing majority, Scholz said Germany will not be thrown off by the power struggle that lies ahead.

“You should know that Germany always has coalitions, and it was always stable,” he said, adding that he aimed to pull together his coalition by Christmas.

From Paris, French minister for European affairs Clement Beaune stressed that France “has an interest to have a strong German government in place”, urging “swift” action from German parties.

The Kremlin said it hoped for “continuity” in Moscow’s ties with Berlin.

In the fractured political landscape of the post-Merkel era, the most likely outcome will be a three-way alliance — ending the post-war tradition of two-party coalition governments.

Both Scholz and Laschet are wooing the Greens and the liberal, pro-business FDP party (11.5 percent) to cobble together a parliamentary majority.

The two kingmakers however are not natural bedfellows, diverging on issues like tax hikes and public investment in climate protection.

Green chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock — whose party hoped to do better with the climate crisis a top voter concern this year — stayed vague about her preferred tie-up, but said it was time for “a fresh start” in the country of 83 million people.

FDP leader Christian Lindner has signaled a preference for a coalition with the CDU-CSU and the Greens, dubbed “Jamaica” in a nod to the colors of each party’s logo — black, green and gold — which are the same as the Jamaican flag.

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