After weeks of negotiations, the Germans have made a show of functioning democracy despite rumors that vaccinations will soon be made mandatory across Europe’s largest economy. According to the FT and a handful of other media outlets, the leaders of Germany’s three biggest parties are expected to form a “traffic light” coalition.
Assuming it is approved by the rank and file of all three parties, the deal will eventually lead to Social Democrat Olaf Scholz taking over as chancellor from the CDU’s Angela Merkel when her nearly two-decade reign comes to an end.
Fortunately, despite mockery in the German press about the degree to which the SPD and the FDP (the Free Democrats) have gone to show a united front, it looks like the peace has generally held, and talks that took more than 5 weeks and involved nearly 300 negotiators have finally reached a conclusion. As we said above, the new government will leave Scholz to take over as chancellor from Merkel, while the FDP’s leader Christian Lindner will be set to become the new finance minister, something many analysts believed would be required to win the FDP rank-and-file’s support for a deal.
Finally, the Greens are expected to be “rewarded” with two major ministries for their own leaders, Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock: A new economy and climate ministry for the former, and the prestigious foreign ministry for the latter.
The new government’s most urgent priority will be to stem a pandemic that is threatening to overrun Germany’s hospitals. Authorities reported 66,884 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, a new record, while the incidence rate per 100K people over the last 7 days has exceeded 400 for the first time since the COVID outbreak began.
The “traffic light” coalition was named for the sake of the parties’ three colors – red for the SPD, yellow for the liberal Free Democrats FDP and green for the Greens.
According to the FT, this will be the first such alliance on a national level in Germany’s history and is expected to end squabbling over climate change at the top of its agenda. A key goal will be to bring forward Germany’s phase-out of coal, which is presently set for 2038.
All three parties said their chief negotiators would meet in Berlin on Wednesday for a final round of talks before unveiling their coalition agreement at 1500 local time.
After initially serving as mayor of Hamburg, Scholz became finance minister in 2018 and initially pursued the same fiscally cautious policies as his predecessor Wolfgang Schäuble. However, when the pandemic hit, he opened the spending taps to help industry and business in what was widely regarded as Europe’s most generous emergency aid program. Some praised the deal as a testament to Scholz’s skills as a negotiator.
Following the September elections, the Social Democrats finished first past the gate, leaving Scholz in pole position to lead the new government.
The SPD and FDP will hold party conferences to approve the coalition deal while the Greens will put it to a vote of all the party’s members. If all three parties give the deal the “green light” – so to speak – the new government will be sworn in by the Bundestag early next month.