This week, (26.10.2021) the newly formed German Parliament convened for the first time since the federal elections held in September. As well as the election of the new president of the Bundestag, the ‘traffic-light’ coalition released their Sondierungspapier last week, announcing their intention to formally enter coalition negotiations. Now, the real work begins.
Departure in the Bundestag
The parties have now entered coalition negotiations and doing so with many new faces. Almost 40% of MPs are entering the Bundestag after being elected for the first time; this is the youngest parliament Germany has ever had; it is also the most diverse. Along with this, a new Bundestag president was elected yesterday. The convening of the Bundestag was opened by Wolfgang Schäuble, a long-time and renowned CDU/CSU MP and president of the Bundestag. This was however also his last time in the role, as the president is elected with every new legislative period. It is tradition for the party who gained the most votes during elections to put forward a candidate- in this case, the SPD. The nominated MP was Bärbel Bas, who gained 79.6% of votes. She has been an MP since 2009 and is a member of various committees, making her an experienced and knowledgeable president.
She is only the third woman to take on this position. The vice president positions, which are filled by one member from each party, are also dominated by women, with Wolfgang Kubicki from the FDP being the only man elected:
The AfD candidate, Michael Kaufmann did not receive the necessary majority vote and was thus not elected.
An overview on how the coalition negotiations work
The first seats have now been decided. in order to decide who should fill the many others available, the coalition negotiations have to first take place. Last week, the ‘traffic light’ coalition (SPD, FDP, Green party) released what is called a ‘Sondierungspapier’. The purpose of such a paper is to announce that this coalition is officially going to try and form a government. Additionally, the paper outlines policy areas that have already been discussed and agreed upon in principle- but not in practice. This means, that the parties have agreed they want the outlined outcome, but they have yet to discuss how the specific policy is to be implemented. To do this, the different policy areas have been divided into 22 ‘working groups’. MPs from each party are assigned to a group and are tasked to find solutions that represent the parties’ interests- this is the core of the coalition negotiations. If this is not possible, the main negotiators (usually the most senior ranking in each party) are tasked to find a solution.
It can be expected that topics such as climate change and taxes will be such instances. Partly this is because this is where the parties have differing policies. The Greens, for example, have a much more ambitious climate action plan. The FDP wants to maintain tax reliefs for big corporations, whereas the SDP and the Greens want to increase these taxes.
Fight for the key seats
Another reason why these will be big topics is that it must be decided on who will lead these ministries. Some ministries will not be fought over too much. An example is the Ministry for Health, which is rumoured to go to the Green Party, although the SPD co-chair, Saskia Esken, has also been linked to this position in the past. Others, however, such as the Ministry of Finance, are already promising to be an interesting battle. Both the SPD and the FDP have an interest in holding this seat. Olaf Scholz from the SPD is the current finance minister. With his party gaining the most votes during the elections and therefore likely to be the chancellor, it could well be that he is less willing to give up this key seat. FDP leader Christian Lindner wants the seat to have increased decision-making when it comes to finance- and tax policy, one of their big campaigning points during the elections.
Even though the Sondierungspapier is a promising outlook on the coalition Germany will form, we should not keep our hopes up that negotiations will come to a close any time soon.
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This article was originally published in English. Translations have been generated automatically and may be incorrect.