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Germany and Europe want to be even greener

Mrs Merkel has dominated politics for the last sixteen years and now wishes to retire from the Chancellorship. A Green led coalition government is now as likely as a CDU/CSU led one.

German Flag In Front of The Reichstag Building In Berlin

by
Charles Stanley

in Features;

28.04.2021

In the last few days, some of the fog and uncertainty over the important German federal election on September 26th has cleared. Mrs Merkel’s party has now agreed with their partner party the Bavarian CSU that Armin Laschet the CDU leader will be their Chancellor candidate in the election. The more popular Markus Soeder, leader of the CSU, lost an internal vote and agreed to withdraw. The Greens meanwhile, as expected, chose Annalena Baerbock as their Chancellor candidate without the public rancour and dither of the CDU/CSU process.

In the two most recent opinion polls from Kantar and Forsa, there has been a green surge in support to 28%, putting them ahead for the first time against the CDU/CSU alliance. The Insa poll puts both the Greens and the CDU/CSU on 23%, with a  better showing for the other major parties. It is widely assumed that the election will be primarily between Laschet and Baerbock fighting over who should lead the largest party and a governing coalition as Chancellor, with the SPD fielding Olaf Scholz as their Chancellor candidate struggling for credibility all the time his party languishes on 13-18% of the vote. The Eurosceptic AFD is polling around 10% to 12%  and is unlikely to be welcomed into a coalition by the other parties.

In polling people’s preferences for Chancellor between the three frontrunners, Baerbock on 23-32% is well ahead of Laschet on 14-19% and Scholz on 15% to 19%. There is of course no direct vote for the Chancellor in the election. Voters have one vote for a local MP and one party vote for top up MPs in a proportional system. A voter can vote for an MP of one party and for top up MPs of another party.

Mrs Merkel has dominated politics for the last sixteen years and says she now wishes to retire from the Chancellorship. She has adopted a studiously neutral stance in public over who should succeed her in the CDU and in the CDU/CSU alliance. She allowed her ally and supporter AKK to take the hit for CDU unpopularity and resign from the party leadership just over a year ago, and she has been unwilling to show enthusiasm or support for Laschet, the relatively new replacement CDU leader. It is now getting very late in the day to make changes to the line up, but it is curious to see the collapse of CDU support with Mrs Merkel unwilling to get behind the CDU leader and give help.

If we assume as most German commentators do that this is now the final line up, a Green led coalition government is now as likely as a CDU/CSU led one. Indeed, if the new Green Chancellor candidate can maintain her current freshness and growing popularity beyond the first few days of her honeymoon period, she becomes the front runner. As you would expect the Green pitch is to make the pursuit of net-zero the main task facing any new government. All departments and policies will be bent to the task of removing fossil fuels. The aim is to eliminate coal use by 2030, and they want to end new internal combustion engine vehicles by the same date. A Green government would accelerate decarbonisation by increasing the target reduction of CO2 from 55% off 1990 levels by 2030 to 70% off. This is a big move and would require much tougher action on cars, domestic heating, electricity generation and the rest. It is unlikely they could eliminate all new internal combustion engines by 2030. They are interested in a range of new technologies including green hydrogen.

Annalena Baerbock wishes to stress she is a centrist or moderate. In one of her first speeches after getting the candidature she spoke about the need to take a tougher stance against China and Russia which would put her closer to US policy than Mrs Merkel has been. The Green party is currently consulting on their possible Manifesto policies. They include a strong commitment to EU integration, saying they want to be at the heart of a European federal Republic. They would spend Euro 50bn a year on climate change-related investments. They float the possibility of a wealth tax on people with more than Euro 2million, and a tax on major digital corporations. The actual platform will be settled at a Convention of members in June.

CDU’s  Armin Laschet is thought to be the continuity candidate with Mrs Merkel. He too would wish to press ahead with net-zero decarbonisation plans, and is a committed European. Whilst his party starts from a less intense approach to the green issues than Annalena Baerbock, and whilst they have some reservations about integrating Germany’s strong finances fully with the rest of the EU, they would doubtless be driven in these directions by the Greens in coalition. If the CDU won the contest for Chancellor and most popular party they might still need  Green support to govern. Whilst there might be more unexpected twists and turns in German politics and more shifts in polls, the early money is on Germany ending up with more impetus behind climate change policies and continued enthusiasm for EU level solutions where possible whether the Greens or the CDU end up ahead. On current polls, no party is going to be in a strong position to form a government and there could be delays as coalition talks drag on.

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