Coalition agreement: The prolongation of the present into the future
In the coalition agreement, the CDU and the SPD dodge important reforms and take a scattershot approach to the distribution of a great deal of money. The big challenges, like climate, demographic change and the digital revolution, are still not setting the political agenda. This is partly due to the CDU/CSU’s lack of a real programme and of a normative economic framework.
Habeamus GroKo? No, there’s no grand coalition (or GroKo for Grosse Koalition) yet, but it is likely that by stepping down as SPD chair, Martin Schultz has secured a majority for the coalition agreement. Priority to Europe, education and digitalisation: these are good intentions. In other respects, a lot of money will be tossed about: good to all and harm to none. Structural reform in the areas of pensions, public health, taxes is left out of the equation. Climate policy figures more as a fringe issue; no new drive towards the ecological modernization of the economy. The section on foreign policy is fairly thin and replete with superficial compromises, the Federal Armed Forces remains underfunded.
The Greens and the FDP had better get ready.
Sorry, but this sounds more like tweaking the status quo than forward thinking. Obviously, the pressure for change in Germany is not (yet) so high that the political agenda is being dictated by the structural challenges it faces: the climate, the digital revolution, demographic shift and the pervasive upheaval in the world economy and global politics. The tide of refugees having abated, once again the hope prevails that we might get through all of this without making any major policy or societal change. The future is being envisioned as the present prolonged. Someone is in for a rude awakening.
Looking at the structure and staffing of the new cabinet, the SPD appears in a better position to boost its political profile again. The party is justified in claiming that the coalition agreement reveals a Social-Democratic handwriting. The same applies to the allocation of ministerial portfolios. Holding both the foreign and finance ministries puts the SPD on an equal footing with the Chancellor with respect to European policy. The Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs is the biggest money-distribution machine, and with the environmental portfolio, the SPD keep their connection to Green-minded voters. For the CDU/CSU, now more than ever, everything depends on Angela Merkel. She remains alternativlos. Of a “transitional chancellor” there is no trace. The CDU/CSU has become a party with no programme and no normative economic framework and one that lacks the courage to allow open debate about its future course. The will to rule won’t be enough to defend the party’s central position in the political landscape in the long-run.
We shall see whether a GroKo relaunch is underpinned by the will to join forces and take the country forward, or whether the formation of a new government is just the prelude to a permanent campaign, in which the chief objective is to stake out the best starting position for early elections. The Greens and the FDP had better get ready.