In Germany, ‘Traffic Light Left’ Is In, Merkel’s Party Out

As the final votes were being counted in Germany’s close national election, all signs pointed Sunday night to its first Socialist chancellor in 16 years.

SPD (Socialist) Leader and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is expected, however, to make few changes in the agenda of retiring CDU (conservative) Chancellor Angela Merkel. He supports a 12-euro per hour minimum wage, more affordable housing, and maintaining Germany’s “brake” on deficit spending.

Well-known in Washington—particularly to Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellin — Scholz takes a hardline on China and Russia that will no doubt be appreciated by the Biden Administration.

According to near-complete returns, the Scholz’s SPD (Socialist) Party topped the race with 205 seats in the 730-member Bundestag (parliament), or roughly 25.8 per cent of the popular vote. 

Sources in Berlin told The Conservative Digest they expect Scholz to ask leaders of the environmentalist Green Party (117 seats and 14.7 percent) and libertarian Free Democrats (91 seats and 11.5 per cent) to join him in a unique three-party coalition and thus make him the successor to Merkel.

The so-called “traffic light left” coalition — a reference to the red, green, and yellow colors of the respective parties — would be the first time in German history three parties rather than two have formed the government.

In terms of policy, there are relatively few differences between the two junior parties that could jeopardize Scholz for the coming four years of governance. Under Leader Annalena Baerbock (very likely the next foreign minister), the Greens maintain their environmentalist brand and are especially tough on China and Russia.

There has been some concern voiced that the FDP’s historic opposition to taxes and expansion of government could put it at odds with the SPD and Greens — particular on the issue of climate change, which the other two parties want to tackle in a big way.

“The FDP has already shown on state level that it is willing to also govern with the SPD and Greens,” Martin Klingst, best-selling author and longtime columnist at the weekly Die Ziet, told The Conservative Digest, “FDP is already a partner in a ‘traffic light coalition’ in [the state of] Rheinland-Pfalz.”

In placing 2nd with 194 seats (24.1 percent), the ruling CDU (conservative) Party and its Bavarian junior partner CSU (Christian Social Union) experienced it worst performance at the polls since Germany began holding elections in 1949.

As Klingst pointed out, “The worst outcomes for CDU/CSU happened in East Germany. In the five new federal states, CDU/CSU only came in third after first-place SPD and [the nationalist] Alternative for Germany [AFD] in second.” 

More than a few CDU adherents are blaming its disastrous performance on the leadership of Party Chairman Armin Laschet, minister-president (governor) of the North Rhine Westphalia. 

“His approval ratings, never high to begin with, suffered a big drop in July when he was caught laughing on camera while visiting areas devastated by floods,” the Financial Times’ Guy Chazan wrote of Laschet last month, “they have never recovered.”

Many German pundits and pols believe it was a mistake to elect Laschet CDU chairman over the more dynamic Friedrich Merz, considered to the right of Merkel and more likely to win back immigration hard-liners from the CSU.

Over the summer, several polls found that, as it was with Ronald Reagan in 1976 after he lost the Republican presidential nomination to Gerald Ford, CDU/CSU voters wish their nominee for chancellor was the more popular and charismatic Bavarian Minister President and CSU leader Markus Soder (who lost the chancellor nomination of the combined conservative coalition to Laschet earlier this year).

The nationalist AfD dropped from 94 to 84 seats in the Bundestag (10.5 percent of the vote) and thus loses its leading opposition party status to the CDU and SPD (who ruled as a “grand coalition” since 2017 and thus left the third-finishing AfD as the strongest opposition party).

Klingst explained “this means that AFD will lose some major parliamentarian advantages such as having the right to speak first in parliament after the government has delivered its arguments, like leading the budget and ways and means committee.”

John Gizzi is The Conservative Digest’s chief political columnist and White House correspondent. He is “the man who knows everyone in Washington” as well as many who hold elected positions and party leadership roles throughout America. He has appeared on countless radio and TV shows in America and Europe. He is the recipient of the William A. Rusher Award for Journalistic Excellence and was named Journalist of the Year by the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2002. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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