Days before the federal elections in Germany, it is worth looking at three minor parties, their leaders and policies as they may play a crucial role in forming the next coalition government. The two frontrunners the SPD and the CDU/CSU (Union) are neck and neck in the polls, with the SPD polling between 3-5% ahead of the Union, and the SPD Chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz holding the highest popularity rating out of the three candidates.
There are many coalition options that might arise after the elections, some of them colour-coded after their corresponding parties. They are as follows:
- Red, Red, Green: SPD, The Left and Greens;
- Jamaica coalition: Union, FDP and Greens;
- German coalition: Union, SPD, FDP;
- Traffic lights coalition: SPD, FDP, Greens;
- Grand coalition: SPD, Union;
- Green Red: SPD and Greens (This looks unlikely as it seems that the numbers to create a stable majority in the Bundestag won’t add up).
Both the Union and the SPD have ruled out any possibility of forming a coalition government with the AfD for their extreme and alienating views, the Union has also categorically ruled out going into talks with The Left while the SPD on the other side didn’t do so.
Olaf Scholz has repeatedly given vague answers to questions about whether the SPD will attempt to form a coalition which includes The Left party. The more left wing co-leaders of the SPD Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans, however, would see their party lead such coalition with the Greens included.
On policy, The Left tends to turn towards democratic socialism when it comes to economics with key proposals including raising the minimum wage in Germany to €13 per hour, implementing stronger market regulation and radically improving the country’s welfare and pension systems. The party is usually criticized for its stance on security as it proposes to cut the defence budget and advocates for the dissolution of NATO.
Currently, the party is polling just above the 5% threshold required to enter the Bundestag. In the event that the party does not enter the parliament, the SPD’s coalition options might be slimmed down to the FDP, Greens or both.
The free-market liberal FDP is currently playing the hard game as they know that they might be necessary for either Scholz or Laschet to form a stable governing coalition which would exclude The Left and the AfD from the government. In 2017, they re-entered the Bundestag under the leadership of young businessman Christian Lindner after not being present in it for four years following their failure failed to pass the 5% electoral threshold in the 2013 federal elections.
Since the 2017 elections, they have been steadily polling at around 10%. Economically, the party is predominantly free-market; it wants to reduce the corporate tax rate to 25%, reduce bureaucracy by proposing the ‘Bureaucracy Relief Act IV’, and provide greater tax incentives for R&D.
On foreign policy, the FDP wants to strengthen the transatlantic relationship and generally support greater EU integration. The party also seeks to work with the US to establish a minimum global tax on corporations as well as aiming to strengthen the EU, establish a common security and foreign policy and support the creation of a European Army. Recently, the deputy leader of the party Wolfgang Kubicki stated in an interview that the FDP would enter a Jamaica coalition even if the SPD comes first in the elections.
In terms of environmental policy, a recent report found that FDP’s environmental policies, if introduced, would produce a massive carbon footprint of approximately 10.7 gigatons (GT) of Co2 when compared to Union’s and SPDs’ 7.1 GT Co2 and the Greens’ 5.3 GT Co2.
This might cause some difficulties during the possible formation of the Jamaica coalition or the Traffic Lights coalition, both of which would include the Greens whose climate policy is radical and focuses on rapid reduction of Co2 emissions. The most ambitious plan which would lead to the least amount of Co2 emissions compared to the other main parties is proposed by The Left, whose policies would amount to 4.9 GT Co2.
The Greens seem to be one of Germany's most environmentally active parties along with The Left. Some of their policy ideas include banning domestic flights, hiking fuel prices and introducing speed limits on the famous autobahns where speed limits are not in place. Their overall plan is to reduce Co2 emissions by 70% until 2030.
When it comes to the economy, the Greens and SPD propose similar ideas. Green policies include raising the minimum wage to €12 an hour, introducing a 1% wealth tax on assets over €2 million, increasing the income tax rate for those earning above €250,000 a year, spending nearly €500 billion over the next decade on economic green transformation and boosting social spending.
Like the SPD, the Greens also want to get radical on housing by introducing rent caps and providing more affordable and social housing across the country. A few months ago, the Greens were leading in the polls. Since then, however, their Chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbcok was accused of plagiarism over her new book and, as a result, the Greens began to decline in the polls. Baerbock is just one of the co-leaders of the party; the other leader, Robert Habeck seems to have overtaken Baerbock in the polls in terms of popularity.
In terms of EU integration, the Greens and the FDP find a common ground on their preference for an EU Army along with the SPD as well as some tax issues such as the minimum corporate tax. The Left tends to be more Eurosceptic; the party opposed the Lisbon Treaty.
Since 1990, the longest coalition talks were held after the 2017 election, lasting 172 days and leading to the creation of a grand coalition. The shortest talks were held after the 1998 and 2002 elections between the SPD and the Greens; they both lasted for 30 days and led to the creation of Red-Green governments.
Whoever comes first in the elections on Sunday, whether the SPD or the Union, they will have to reach out to the three smaller parties and try to form a stable coalition which will govern Germany. The three possible kingmakers could, depending on their election results, possibly demand quite a lot in terms of policy concessions and ministry portfolios during the coalition talks. On Sunday, it is up to German voters to decide what coalitions will be possible and who will lead their country for the next four years.