News Digest Item
25 Sep 2017

Plenty of stumbling blocks in coalition talks of conservatives, greens, liberals

German media on coalition talks ahead

German chancellor Angela Merkel will face plenty of stumbling blocks if she sets out to forge a coalition of her conservative CDU/CSU block with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and The Greens, media commentators point out on the day after federal elections. The chancellor might find it hardest to bridge differences between the Bavarian arm of her own party alliance, the CSU, and The Greens, especially on issues of immigration and security. But FDP and Greens also will have to compromise on energy and climate and overcome long-standing animosities, they write.

The FDP leader has always irked the Greens with his push to soften emissions standards for cars, writes Barbara Gillmann for the business daily Handelsblatt. Other areas for conflict include health insurance and EU policies. However, there are a number of important areas of agreement, Gillmann writes, citing Green politician Kerstin Andreae: “In the fight for an open society, civil rights, digitalisation and immigration we stand together.” [For a full analysis also see Handelsblatt Global Edition’s “Difficult Kingmakers”]

Both parties represent the sophisticated democratic middle class, writes Joachim Käppner in a commentary for the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. The pro-business Free Democrats still carry baggage from the past, mainly its neo-liberal ‘the market will fix it all’-ideology, he writes. “The FDP’s dinosaur-like ideas would be a very problematic point of conflict in the climate question in the case of a coalition.” The two parties may find enough common ground to turn a coalition with the CDU/CSU into a real reform project rather than an emergency solution. “But that requires such a lot of political goodwill, that one shouldn’t be too optimistic.”

Writing in the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Berthold Kohler argues that a so-called Jamaica coalition (named for the party colours - Black, Green and Yellow of the CDU/CSU, Greens and FDP, which match the Jamaican flag) would be a forced marriage born out of necessity. Especially the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s CDU, the CSU, which is heading for state elections in 2018, will find such a coalition tough. The black-yellow-green start would be full of tensions rather than magic, he says. Conservative daily Die Welt concludes: “The coalition talks of CDU/CSU, FDP and Greens will probably be uncomfortable – the most difficult Merkel has ever had to lead.”

In any case, Chancellor Angela Merkel is heading into a period of difficult coalition talks, writes Ines Pohl on Deutsche Welle. In a separate piece on Deutsche Welle on the relationship of the FDP and Greens, Jefferson Chase writes that they have a history of sniping at one another, “sometimes in sandbox fashion.” Both parties are competing for the same voters, explaining some of their animosities, he writes. In the article, political scientist Oskar Niedermayer points to the differences ranging from refugees to the future of the combustion engine. But he sees the conflict between the Greens and the CSU as the main stumbling block for a Jamaica coalition: "[They] have drawn lines in the sand, for example, on the combustion engine and coal-burning power plants."

In Germany’s largest tabloid, the Bild Zeitung, Hanno Kautz writes that much will depend on the chemistry of the party leaders, like in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein, where the parties successfully forged such a coalition. On a federal level, conservative CSU head Horst Seehofer or transport minister Alexander Dobrindt were much disliked in Green circles as were left-leaning Green politicians Jürgen Trittin or Anton Hofreiter in the CSU. Kautz also lists the difficult issues, but highlights another important stumbling block: Green party members who might consider compromises as treason to its party ideals.

Bild-author Kautz points to a picture in leftist newspaper taz, that asked “How stoned do you have to be” in reference to cannabis-smoking fans of Jamaican reggae idol Bob Marley in its article about what conservatives and FDP had to offer the Greens to lure them into a coalition. Taz author Ulrich Schulte writes that the Greens face a difficult time because a Jamaica coalition was pure “horror” for many of its left-leaning members. Its “mediocre” election result suggests that mainly traditional supporters cast their vote for the party, making any compromise on core issues now more difficult, Schulte says.

On one of Germany’s most-read online news site, Spiegel Online, Sebastian Fischer calls for courage. “Jamaica is an opportunity for Germany,” he says. Such a new coalition with four partners would bring conflicts, as new formations had been in the past, he says. But new coalitions have been reform drivers in the past. “It wouldn’t be the worst for the country if a Jamaica coalition could achieve that.”

All texts created by the Clean Energy Wire are available under a “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)” . They can be copied, shared and made publicly accessible by users so long as they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.

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