The two rivals are vying for the support of the Greens and the Liberals in order to form a coalition.
In the race for the Chancellery, the SPD candidate Olaf Scholz got a head start on Monday over his conservative opponent, Armin Laschet, but the ordeal will be long. In the aftermath of his narrow victory, the Minister of Finance confirmed his intention to negotiate a coalition with the Greens and the Liberal Democrat party, the FDP. “The voters spoke clearly and they said who should form the new government”, said the current vice-chancellor, who intends to succeed Angela Merkel.
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According to provisional official results, the Social Democrats won 25.7% of the vote (+ 5% compared to the 2017 election), against 24.1% for the CDU, which has a historically low score, 9 points lower than the one harvested four years earlier. Angela Merkel’s party does not however give up forming an alternative coalition with the help of the same two parties, the Grünen and the FDP. The latter obtained 14.8% and 11.5% of the votes respectively.
During a press conference organized in the morning at the headquarters of the party, Olaf Scholz has already tried to slip into the shoes of the chancellor. He replied in English to several foreign correspondents, mentioned the European Union that he wanted “Strong and sovereign”, as well as its relations with Russia. He promised the “stability” from Germany to its future foreign partners, who are worried about a period of vacuum following the departure of Angela Merkel.
At the same time, the CDU opened an executive committee under the sign of discontent. Party officials, including young health minister Jens Spahn, called for a change of “generation” within the conservative family. In the former GDR, in Saxony in particular, where the CDU suffered a “earthquake” for the benefit of the AfD, the CDU has no “Clear mandate” to lead a government, said the CDU Minister-President of this Land, Michael Kretschmer.
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Under pressure, Armin Laschet promised a “Renewal at all levels of his party”, but he keeps his chair. Expression “Clear mandate” has disappeared from his vocabulary. Instead of “claim” formally the Chancellery, the CDU now formulates «propositions», including an alliance with the Greens and the FDP based on sustainable development and economic modernization. Themes likely to unite the two partners. “A coalition is formed on content and not on the fact of obtaining 24% instead of 25%”, explains Armin Laschet, reminding Olaf Scholz that he is “Not the king”.
The loser of the ballot, unloved by the Germans, tries to extricate himself from the implacable electoral mathematics. But the main objective of the operation seems to be to buy time by saving the party’s unity, and to prevent it from falling into opposition. If necessary, he risks implosion, in particular as regards the CDU militants of the former GDR, sometimes tempted by the sirens of the AfD. “Trying to build a coalition is the only card left in Laschet, otherwise it will be disaster”, says Henrik Utterwede, political scientist at the Franco-German Institute in Ludwigsburg. Andreas Jung, number two of the CDU-CSU group in the Bundestag, also acknowledges this in front of the SRW, but less bluntly: “It would be a bad idea to currently consider our departure from the opposition as an objective. It is good to have discussions ”, confirms this close to Armin Laschet.
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Faced with the two suitors, environmentalists and liberals cleared the ground for the next talks. The two parties announced the launch of the first bilateral consultations aimed at preparing negotiations with the CDU and the SPD respectively. The FDP is naturally closer to the conservatives while during the campaign, the Grünen favored an alliance with the Social Democrats. But the cards now seem reshuffled. “The campaign is over, the circumstances are as they are and we have to make the most of it professionally, we have to build bridges”, explained Robert Habeck, co-chairman of the Grünen.
The latter does not exclude a coalition with the CDU and the FDP, like that governing his region of origin, Schleswig-Holstein. “We are in a really cool situation which allows us to release energies”, Habeck adds. “Hello Germany, you sleep, but something new can come out of all this”, exclaims the party theorist, for whom “The right and the left” no longer exist. This incubation period where “The policy will be attractive”, he promises, should last… until Christmas.