19 Oct 2021, 13:00
Kerstine Appunn Benjamin Wehrmann

Election aftermath: Tracking the making of Germany's new government

The September 2021 election result has left Germany with several options for a new government coalition. Agreeing it will involve lengthy negotiations to overcome major discrepancies between party programmes, and agreeing on a compromise that puts climate action centre stage, as all major parties have vowed they would. It could take until the end of the year, with both the Social Democrats’ and the conservatives' candidates saying they are hopeful that the government will stand by Christmas. The political options are manifold: The Social Democrats (SPD), who won the most seats in parliament, would like to govern with the Green Party and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP). Another option is an alliance between Greens, FDP and the conservatives (CDU-CSU), who are the second largest group in parliament despite suffering heavy losses in the election. As the kingmakers of any such three-way coalition, FDP and Green Party said they would talk to each other first. This tracking piece follows the coalition talks – from the first day after the election until the new government is established.

19 October

Formal coalition negotiations to start soon after “traffic light” parties all give consent

All relevant bodies in the three parties expecting to form Germany’s next government have given their consent to enter into coalition negotiations, newspaper Tagesspiegel reported. After the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Green Party, the Free Democrats (FDP) also agreed on initiating formal talks to form a so-called “traffic light coalition,” named after the parties’ colours. The parties‘ leaders already said at the end of last week that they wanted to enter into negotiations but still had to wait for their parties’ full approval. Formal negotiations could already start in the next few days.


18 October

German “traffic light coalition” ponders introduction of climate ministry, FDP leader says

The possible new German coalition government of the Social Democrats (SPD), the Green Party and the Free Democratic party (FDP) could install a “new climate ministry,” the head of the FDP, Christian Lindner, said, without specifying the body’s scope of influence. The idea was not mentioned in a consultation paper the three parties released at the end of last week when announcing their agreement to enter into formal coalition negotiations. A new ministry for climate action could centralise competencies currently spread out over several other ministries to ensure that the country gets on track towards reaching its cross-sectoral emission reduction targets. Lindner later qualified his statement, saying a climate ministry would so far only be his “expectation” and not yet an agreed measure.

Industry appears more content with “traffic light coalition’s” climate proposals than climate activists

Industry representatives in Germany have largely welcomed the ideas proposed by the possible next government coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), the Green Party and the Free Democrats (FDP). Kerstin Andreae, former Green Party MP and now head of the energy industry association BDEW, said the energy industry’s first impression of the parties’ ideas was “extraordinarily positive.”  Industry federation BDI said the talks among the parties signalled that they are “on track” to form a new government. BDI head Siegfried Russwurm welcomed that the parties do not plan to introduce new or higher taxes. “This has to be about preserving growth and competitiveness,” Russwurm said. Climate activists are more critical of the results presented by the SPD, the Greens and the FDP. Luisa Neubauer, a leader of the Fridays for Future climate protest movement in Germany, told media association RND that the coalition’s plans failed to win her consent. Simply doing more for climate action than the previous government would not be enough, she argued. “It’s about doing enough to comply with international climate promises,” she said. With the paper the coalition parties released on Friday “this won’t be possible.” Environmental group Greenpeace said the three parties’ proposals contained a lot of “good will” but are nevertheless inadequate for putting Germany on a path compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.


15 October

SPD, Greens, FDP to enter negotiations for new government focussed on 1.5°C path

Three weeks after Germany’s election, the country is moving one step closer towards its first three-party government coalition. Following several days of intensive preliminary talks, the Social Democrats, the Green Party and the Free Democrats said they would seek to enter into formal coalition negotiations soon and strive to form a new government before the end of the year. All three parties stressed the amicable tone in the talks that could help the country to have a “fresh start” and pave the way for an ecologic modernisation of the economy that complies with climate targets. Most people in Germany strongly back the formation of a so-called “traffic light coalition,” but the start of formal negotiations still hinges on the consent of all relevant party bodies.


12 October

CDU to dissolve entire party leadership

After scoring its worst-ever election result in Germany’s modern history, the conservative CDU will dissolve its entire leadership (Bundesvorstand) and elect a new one at a special party conference, CDU secretary general Paul Ziemiak has said. The party’s regional organisations should decide at the end of October whether the CDU should use a ballot vote by its roughly 400,000 party members to decide on a new leadership. The party conference would likely take place at the end of this year or at the beginning of 2022, Ziemiak said. Tobias Hans, CDU state premier of Saarland, said the new leadership would have to introduce a “new voice” to the party and do away with the “myth” that climate action comes at low costs, newspaper Tagesspiegel reported.

SPD, Greens and FDP ready to intensify coalition talks

The formation of a so-called “traffic light” coalition in Germany is edging closer, as the leaders of the Social Democrats (SPD), the Green Party and the Free Democrats (FDP) have agreed to intensify informal talks on a three-party government. According to newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the parties now assess the potential for cooperation in specific policy fields in smaller negotiating groups, with finances, taxation and climate action reportedly emerging as the biggest stumbling blocks. The parties will continue their talks until the end of the week, when they could decide whether to enter into formal coalition negotiations.


11 October

Departure of economy minister Altmaier and ex-party leader Kramp-Karrenbauer shakes conservatives

The unexpected decision by two senior CDU politicians -- economy and energy minister Peter Altmaier and defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer -- to leave the German parliament has sent shockwaves through the conservative alliance. After their party scored its worst-ever election result in modern history, the ministers announced their withdrawal from parliament to make room for younger party colleagues and enable a fresh start for the whole conservative party. The departure of Altmaier, who has also served as Angela Merkel’s chief of chancellery, and of Kramp-Karrenbauer, who led the CDU between 2018 and 2020, could herald a difficult restructuring phase for the party, newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung writes. “Two weeks after the elections, this clearly shows that the party has not completed but merely begun a major transformation process.” Both ministers are expected to stay in office until a new government has been sworn in.

Greens and FDP caution climate action costs could become hurdle in coalition talks

Leading members of the German Green Party and the Free Democrats (FDP) have warned against premature expectations regarding the formation of a new government coalition together with the Social Democrats (SPD), Focus Online reports. Green Party co-leader Robert Habeck said there would still be “considerable differences” in some areas, especially climate action financing and fiscal policy.  “There are clear differences between us and also between the SPD and the FDP with regard to finances. And finances not only concern the budget but also our potential investments in climate action,” Habeck said. The FDP’s secretary general, Volker Wissing, told newspaper Bild Zeitung that his party would stick to its demands regarding financial and fiscal policy, reiterating that the FDP is opposed to tax hikes and to any weakening of the public debt brake. “We stick to that. Debt does not create a future,” Wissing said.


7 October

Exploratory coalition talks between SPD, FDP and Greens ahead as CDU leader initiates retreat

After a day of three-way talks, Social Democrats, FDP and Greens have decided to continue sounding out whether they want to form Germany’s next government coalition, and plan to meet again next week. The three parties will meet Monday (11 October), Tuesday and Friday. The parties want to discuss "all issues" in the coming week, and have decided to maintain silence and not talk publicly about the content of their negotiations.

Meanwhile, Germany's conservative leader Armin Laschet has said he is ready to stand down as head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) less than two weeks after an election that saw the party lose to the rival Social Democrats. The 60-year-old said he would be asking for a special congress of the CDU to determine the "future and reorganisation" of the party leadership, writes Euronews.

Greens co-leader calls for speedy coalition talks to create new German “climate government”

Green Party co-leader Annalena Baerbock has called for speedy coalition talks with election winner SPD and the pro-business FDP to make the next German government a “climate government”. In an interview with public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk (Dlf) ahead of today’s start of the three-way talks, Baerbock said the urgency of the climate crisis has become more than clear in past months. She said the talks with the two possible partners would not be easy - partly because “FDP and we Greens have been far apart [on climate] so far”. However, a cooperation also presented a big opportunity to “create a new dynamic” in Germany and Europe. As the world would not wait for Germany and challenges had to be tackled swiftly, talks had to “move forward constructively and quickly”, said Baerbock.


6 October

SPD, Greens and FDP to enter exploratory coalition talks in Germany

German election winner the Social Democrats (SPD), the Green Party and the pro-business FDP have decided to enter joint talks to sound out a common base to form the next government coalition. After a series of bilateral talks between parties which could form a coalition over the past days, the Greens’ leadership proposed to enter three-way exploratory talks. Should these succeed, then representatives from all partners could enter official coalition negotiations to hammer out an agreement that is likely to have a large focus on climate and energy transition policy.


5 October

Greens and FDP to decide on coalition option after bilateral talks end

After a last bilateral meeting of German parties which could theoretically form a government coalition, the Green Party and the FDP must now decide whether to start coalition talks with election winner SPD or the conservative CDU/CSU alliance.

After today’s meeting with CDU and CSU, the Greens’ co-leader Annalena Baerbock said the two political camps “are far apart on socio-political issues”, but in other areas have common concerns, namely digitalisation and the ecological transformation. CDU head Armin Laschet said that policy differences could be overcome and his party would stand ready to try and form a coalition with the Greens and the FDP.

The Green Party leadership did not specify when a decision would be made public, or whether the party would first consult with the FDP. First, the party would talk internally, said co-leader Robert Habeck. “We will take time for this today and tomorrow.”


1 October

"We have a mandate to form a new beginning in Germany" - Greens, FDP

After a second round of pre-exploratory talks on 1 October, Green Party and FDP leaders said the process of building bridges between the two has begun in a good atmosphere, but is not yet finished. “The Greens and the FDP are the forces that have challenged the status quo the most. We feel we have a mandate to form a new beginning in Germany," said FDP head Christian Lindner after the meeting

Motorway speed limit no red line for Greens

The Green Party will not insist on its demand for a general speed limit on German motorways if they become part of the country’s next government coalition. A speed limit of 130 kilometres per hour on the country’s ‘autobahn’ network has been part of the Greens’ and the Social Democrats’ (SPD) election programmes, but is staunchly rejected by the Free Democrats (FDP), with whom the other two parties could soon enter into negotiations to form a so-called “traffic light” coalition, named after the parties’ colours. The Greens’ parliamentary group co-leader told the Rheinische Post newspaper that his party would still strive for the introduction of a speed limit but would not enter the coalition talks with red lines regarding detailed legislation and rather work for a more general restart of climate action measures. “We will find joint solutions with the FDP,” Anton Hofreiter said. Germany is the only country in Europe that does not have a general speed limit on parts of its highway network and the question of introducing one for climate protection and safety reasons has been hotly debated  as some motorists in the car-loving nation regard the freedom to drive as fast as they like as an example of civil liberty.

Parties pledge to strive for quick progress on forming new government

Germany’s major parties are gearing up for exploratory talks about possible coalition negotiations in earnest next week, with leading party members promising to strive for the quick formation of a new government, news website Zeit Online reports. “We shouldn’t be sounding out or options forever,” said Norbert Walter-Borjans, co-leader of the election winner Social Democrats (SPD). Walter-Borjans said he hopes for “quick progress” leading to official coalition negotiations. Green Party co-leader Annalena Baerbock also stressed she wants to “swiftly initiate talks,” while the conservative CDU/CSU alliance signalled that it would like to finish exploratory talks by mid-October. All parties hope to have agreed on a new government by late December, the article said. After a first informal meeting between the heads of the Green Party, further talks are planned between the FDP and the Greens, the FDP and the SPD, the Greens and the SPD and the FDP and the CDU/CSU over the weekend. The Greens and the conservatives plan to meet early next week.


30 September

FDP and conservatives agree to hold talks on possible coalition negotiations

The conservative CDU/CSU alliance and the pro-business FDP have agreed on talks to sound out the prospects for a coalition at the end of the week, public broadcaster ARD reports. The conservatives under chancellor candidate Armin Laschet came in second behind the Social Democrats (SPD) in the election but still have a chance to form a government together with the FDP and the Green Party in a so-called Jamaica-coalition, named after the parties’ colours.


29 September

What are the climate and energy plans of German election winner Scholz?

Chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz will have to walk a thin line between meeting the requirements for putting Germany on track towards climate neutrality and not alienating voters who supported the SPD due to its promise not to overburden citizens with climate action costs. The possible next chancellor of a government coalition that includes the Green Party and the pro-business FDP has said he wants to become a "climate chancellor" - like his predecessor Merkel - but judging by his past policy choices he still has work to do to live up to his stated ambition. Read about his positions here

Parties meet for pre-exploratory coalition talks

FDP and Greens have said they will meet again on 1 October for further talks on a possible government coalition with either the SPD or the CDU/CSU, reports Tagesschau. A larger leadership group will enter first talks about policy. The FDP also said it aims to have first meetings with SPD and conservatives over the weekend, and the Greens plan similar talks over the coming days.


28 September

Greens, FDP meet to sound out common ground

Green Party leaders Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck met with FDP head Christian Lindner and secretary general Volker Wissing to sound out common ground. "In the search for a new government, we explore common ground and bridges over divides. And even find some. Exciting times," Habeck wrote in a post on instagram.

SPD ready for exploratory talks with Greens and FDP as early as this week

The Social Democrats said they are ready to initiate exploratory government coalition talks with the Greens and the FDP as early as this week directly following the election, reports public broadcaster ARD.

Green Party, FDP most popular parties among young voters in German election

The Green Party and the Free Democrats (FDP) were the two most popular parties among young voters in the German elections, an analysis conducted by research institute Forschungsgruppe Wahlen has found. At 22 and 19 percent of the share, respectively, the Greens and the FDP led the scoreboard among voters younger than 30 years.


27 September 2021

Climate policy rift promises thorny talks between German election ‘kingmakers’ Greens and FDP

Following a tight election that saw the Social Democrats narrowly beat the conservatives, the smaller Greens and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) look set to become decisive for building a new government that must set Germany on course for climate neutrality. While both parties follow a pro-climate course, deep divisions over the right approach to reducing emissions will make an agreement between Greens and FDP a challenge. An earlier coal phase-out, setting an end to the sale of combustion engine cars, and a speed limit on the country's autobahns are among the most controversial issues. Read the story here.

Kingmakers among themselves: Greens and pro-business Free Democrats will talk first

The head of the Green Party parliamentary group, Anton Hofreiter says Greens and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) will start exploratory coalition talks "in a very small circle" to find common ground.

The party leader of the FDP, Christian Lindner, also announced they would enter into pre-exploratory talks with the Greens, adding that his party will be open to negotiations with SPD and conservatives to form a coalition government afterwards.

Olaf Scholz, chancellor candidate of the Social Democrats (SPD), said the voters had given his party a clear mandate: “We should form a government with the Free Democrats and the Greens”.


26 September 2021

Germany heading for three-party government with climate focus after tight elections

Germany is heading towards a three-party federal government with a significant climate action focus as the Social Democrats scored a thin victory in the federal elections following an unexpected comeback, and the long-ruling conservatives slumped to their worst result ever.

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