In the most consequential election in post-reunification Germany, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD) came out on top of the polls with 25.7%, while CDU/CSU’s candidate, Armin Laschet, received 24.1% of the vote. The results make both the Greens (14.8%) and the liberal FDP (11.5%) the kingmakers for the country’s next Chancellor.
In what some commentators have called the “Dutchification” of German politics, the results also mean that, for the first time, Germany’s next Government will have to be a coalition of three parties. While a rebirth of the grand-coalition under SPD-leadership is theoretically possible, both the SPD and CDU have staunchly ruled out the possibility.
As a result, the only feasible coalition options are the traffic-light coalition consisting of the SPD, the Greens and the FDP, or the Jamaica coalition made up of the CDU/CSU, the Greens and the FDP. While the Greens would naturally prefer a coalition with the SPD, the FDP’s more liberal and business-friendly orientation would align more naturally with the CDU.
With both the Greens and the FDP needed to form a government, in any case, the two parties’ leaders have already spent the week holding initial discussions between each other on aligning their positions for the upcoming talks with their potential senior partners. It is now expected that the Olaf Scholz’ SPD will make their first overtures, separately, to the Greens and the FDP on Sunday, while Armin Laschet’s team is planning to meet with FDP-leader Christian Lindner, on Sunday evening. A meeting with the Greens is planned for Tuesday next week according to German media.
In any case, the upcoming coalition negotiations are set to be difficult. While the SPD and the Greens would be somewhat natural allies on a number of questions, including on taxation, social services and climate protection, the election campaign highlighted deep divisions between them and the FDP particularly with regard to tackling climate change and mobility policy. In 2017, the negotiations lasted for almost six months, leaving Germany and the European Union with a significant power vacuum. This time, however, faced with the huge societal, environmental and industrial challenged facing Germany and the EU, all parties aim to finalise the negotiations as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, the odds are high that Angela Merkel will still be delivering the annual New Year’s speech.