Could anyone expect that 450 thousand members of the Social-Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) decide about the fates of the biggest political parties and their leaders, a crowd of officials in an intra-party referendum? This is the result of political wrangling for a few months, during which there were a lot of turning points and surprises. Everything depends on a corresponding referendum whose results were to be known on 4 March this year. On that day it was to turn out whether another coalition government would be created and managed by Angela Merkel.

Regardless of the further development of the situation one can see that Germany is not the same country as it used to be half a year or a year ago. It proved it as well as the election did, and what happened later. But the source of the change is deeper: Germany is the same but as it used to be. It is not willing to support parties wielding a lot of souls any longer.

Two possibilities

Before the last year parliamentary election in Germany it seemed that there were two possibilities. Christian Democrats from CDU/CSU were to win and create a coalition with social-democrats from SPD or liberals from FDP. The first one would guarantee more stable governments, the another one – a clear line, and in both cases Angela Merkel would become a chancellor again.

Contacts made after the election by the party managed by Merkel with FDP and the Greens were aiming at appointing a coalition called Jamaican colloquially. Towards the weaker electoral results of SDP, it seemed the only sensible parliamentary solution than it had been expected.

However, when talks with FDP failed and there appeared a spectrum of accelerated other elections or weak minority governments of the Christian Democrats, the president of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier took an action, appealing to the party for a dialogue and responsibility. – We are in an unprecedented situation in the history of RFN – he said to social-democrats persuading them to talk to CDU/CSU, who are not willing to do it.

Blunders and failures

In 2013, nearly four-fifth entitled to vote took part in the previous referendum in SDP, but three-fourths of them voted for the coalition. However, this time it could have been different, as the situation had changed, and the opposition of parties is high. Not accidentally: participation in SPD in two previous so-called big coalitions brought the party high losses of image, and the election in September they proved it the best. SPD gained only 20 per cent votes, which was the worst result in history.

The reasons for the popularity fall are well known. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her CDU, moving from the conservative position towards the centre of the political arena, took over a part of postulates of SPD. Achievements of the government were going into the account of Christian Democrats, and the party of Martin Schulz was responsible for blunders and failures.

How to bounce up

Schulz, appointed for the post of chancellor, is probably the biggest loser of some fights between coalitions. When he announced moving SPD to opposition after the election, he said too much. Breaking toxic relations with the party of Merkel seemed a chance to bounce up from the bottom but things went to an unexpected and unwanted direction.

The failure of talks with liberals meant chaos, minority governments or new election, therefore Schulz decided to talk and create a coalition, not expecting what conflict it might raise in the party. There was a more fierce conflict when despite his promises, he enforced to be given a post of diplomacy chief in the future government. Now Schulz had no way: he had to resign. He resigned from the posts of both as the chief of the Foreign Ministry and SPD and agreed to get retired. Andrea Nahles became the chief of SPD.

Political rubikon

If the coalition is made, Nahles may be the person who will gain more during the coalition commotion, because she did not manage to maneuver Schulz. Indeed under one condition: that she will manage to convince the so-called party pits of her policy. Angela Merkel also takes advantage of it, but, mainly, because it is the fourth time – surely the last one – that she is going to become a chancellor.

However, the nationalist and populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) may take advantage of it the most, which became a political group after the election, which must be respected. This party reminds of CDU from years ago, when it did not allow for being seduced by political (and leftist) correctness. In the recent survey of popularity, AfD went beyond political rubikon, getting ahead of SPD. Euphoria which appeared in the party after that, is not shared by commentators observing German policy, but the situation in Germany – and in Europe – seems so dynamic that a lot may happen.

Translated by Aneta Amrozik

Niedziela 10/2018 (11 III 2018)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl