Even though it will be a while until we know who forms the ruling parties in the 20th German Parliament “Bundestag”, the preliminary results of the recent Federal Election indicate some valuable insights into what is next in store for German Politics.
Historically largest parties SPD and CDU/CSU remain to secure most representation with 25.7% and 24.1% projected votes respectively, with the center-left SPD marginally ahead of the latter, center-right group. It is not surprising in Germany to have multiple parties come so close in their share of votes – coalition governments have quite popularly been the norm. Since 2013, the German parliament has been formed by a coalition between these two parties, with Angela Merkel (CDU) acting as Chancellor.
In addition, the climate control-centered leftist “Greens,” business-oriented libertaniarist FDP (Federal Democratic Party) and right-wing extremist AfD (Alternative for Germany) are also set to secure representation in the Bundestag with 14.8%, 11.5% and 10.3% votes respectively.
There is certainly to be a fair mix of ideologies in the new legislative body. The three main domains that are expected to have strongly influenced German voters are the sustainability and climate policy, tax policy, and foreign policy (particularly dealing with refugees and modeling immigration).
Climate policy has been at the center of the election’s political agenda and there is an overall consensus between the parties about heading towards a more climate-neutral future in Germany. Targets are to increase renewable energy use and achieve greenhouse gas-neutrality by 2035-2045 and while the Greens and SDP advocate intervention to achieve these goals as soon as possible, the CDU/CSU and FDP call for increased market-based incentives towards the same. The agendas of all parties include phasing out coal by 2035 or 2045 at the latest, except for AfD that believes that envisaging a complete switch to renewable energy is unreasonable. Overall, there is a clear goal in mind but conflicts will arise about the balance between market-based and interventionist approaches towards this.
There is likely to be greater conflict over the issue of taxation in Germany, given the fundamental difference between leftist and rightist approaches. The left-wing parties, SPD and Greens, are inclined towards making the tax system more progressive through higher taxes on high-value assets as well as increased tax relief for lower- and middle-income classes, partly because of the budget deficit incurred due to the pandemic. The CDU/CSU and FDP remain in opposition over this matter and believe in retaining loose fiscal policy in support of businesses for the economy’s best interests, especially since the impact of the lockdowns on business activity is still fresh.
AfD is most vocally against all refugee asylum and not only wants Germany to close its borders but also radically increase deportation. CDU/CSU is more liberal about refugee limits and respective family reunification but wants to increase deportation as well. SPD and the Greens appeal to greater humanitarian duties towards asylum seekers and are against any limit on refugees on grounds that it would be unethical to reject support. Likewise, the two parties are also more liberal about deportation.
Unlike the refugee issue, there is strong agreement between all parties about the “Skilled Workers Immigration Act”. The Act has been in place since March 2020 to tackle the shortage of specialists in Germany and makes it easier for skilled workers from outside the EU to settle in Germany by reducing entry qualification barriers and boosting residence permit processes for these groups. All parties agree to improve this further by drawing from the Canadian Model of Immigration which targets limited but specific migration of young qualified immigrants.
There is significant speculation about this issue as many coalition combinations are likely. At the moment, it seems most probable that the SPD becomes a part of the ruling government with their candidate Olaf Scholz assuming the position of the new Chancellor, but CDU/CSU also promises full efforts to continue as a ruling party even though a coalition between SPD and CDU/CSU is less likely this time. It is expected to take a few months until this matter gets finalized and Angela Merkel will be effectively heading administration until then – at least until Christmas.
Nevertheless, regardless of who forms the ruling government and who the opposition, there is going to be great diversity in the legislative body. Over most issues, there are differences between leftist and rightist ideologies as well as the extent of these within the different parties. While the results indicate an overall inclination towards the left in the new Bundestag, with such close representation ratios and multiple parties holding a significant share, there is sure to be a balanced approach that will involve compromises from both ends.
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