SPD plus Greens: A pre-election coalition?

German Social Democrats have appealed to Greens to consider forming a coalition in the build up to the national election. Would you say that the pre-election SPD-Greens coalition may have some positive effect on the combine election result of SPD and Greens or not, and why? Read few comments.

Christian SchweigerLecturer in Government, Department of Politics, Durham University

I think the fact that the SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel spoke at the Green party conference mainly has a strategic reason: The SPD is keen on ensuring that after the general election the Green Party does not form a coalition with the CDU (in case the FDP does not enter parliament and remains below five per cent). Although it would be pretty unlikely for the Greens to go into a coalition with the CDU, as there are fundamental differences over major policy areas, if a red-green coalition would not achieve enough mandates to govern in principle anything is possible.

It is difficult to say if this pre-election coalition will have a positive effect on the election result for both parties. On the one hand some voters may dislike the determination of a coalition before the actual election result is known. I would say that this particularly applies to voters of the Greens because these are no longer just left-wingers or pacifists but increasingly also disaffected supporters of the FDP and the CDU, the so-called new liberal middle class which Schröder once described as the ‘Neue Mitte’. These people would like the party to be flexible on coalitions and would have nothing against a coalition with the CDU as long as Green issues such as environmental protection and civil liberties are noticeable in a government agenda.

On the other hand the determination on a red-green coalition in the way Sigmar Gabriel has done may boost turnout amongst SPD voters. Gabriel claimed that only these two parties would be able to fundamentally reform capitalism in Germany in the wake of the financial crisis and this is something which appeals to traditional SPD supporters who have become reluctant to turn out and support the party in elections in recent years. The key here is the SPD’s emphasis on regulating the financial industry and introducing higher taxes for the very rich. The problem with this is that there seems to a slight split emerging in the Green Party on which economic course they should support but the two figureheads of the party, Jürgen Trittin and Katrin Göring-Eckardt are firmly on the SPD’s side regarding the core of the political agenda.

Just one side remark which may be interesting to you: Trittin himself would probably never allow his party to form a coalition with the CDU as long as he is in a leading position. He comes from a firm centre-left background and has always been a supporter of an alliance with the SPD. Göring-Eckardt is different: She comes from a more pragmatic Christian background and this in principle puts her closer to the ideals of moderate CDU politicans. It could therefore not be ruled out that, if no other option was possible, Göring-Eckardt could lead her party into a coalition with the CDU, although I would consider this to be highly unlikely given the overall orientation of the party.

Sebastian BukowWissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Institut für Forschungsinformation und Qualitätsicherung

My first impression is that Greens most important goal is to come back in government – this is broadly accepted within the party. But the party wants to form a red/green coalition – and up to now we cannot say if this will be possible due to SPDs weakness. Furthermore there is no “wind of change” in Germany, Angela Merkel is broadly supported.

But never the less this red/green coalition is the most supported coalition formation with Greens in power – most liked within the party and most liked by Green voters as well.

This support is (as I would say) not really based on policy position (esp. when comparing Steinbrück’s SPD and Merkel’s CDU policy positions), there are only a very few issues that could cause serious problems within a black/green coalition. It is a more or less result of path dependency and ‘traditions’- and: Greens experiences with CDU on Land level (Hamburg) weren’t that good (but there are several black/green cooperation on local level).

Now, is the decision for red/green as clear priority in this electoral campaign helpful? Most likely: Yes. The most important argument is (as the Green party elite says, based on some survey data, but I do not have access to these data): There are still relevant parts of Green voters who would not vote Greens if a black/green coalition is feasible. I do not know how much this is true, because for those voters there are not so many alternatives when voting, but in fact: The Greens will not be elected for a black/green coalition, but (maybe) for a red/green one. And as far as we know, there is a strong red/green formation within the electorate, with vote splitting for SPD direct candidates and greens party list candidates. Due to that the Greens try to be independent but strongly linked to red/green at the same time. We will see if this dualism will work. Nevertheless within the campaign this clear red/green position should be helpful (and as I was told: A few minor ‘conflicts’ between SPD and Greens will be prepared for mobilizing voters).

The decision might be a problem if (right now everything is open) a red/green majority becomes absolutely unlikely during the campaign. And of course it might be a problem after the election – if there is no red/green majority. But up to know, there is too much that could happen within the next months, and due to that for the next weeks this might be the right decision.

Ed TurnerLecturer in Politics and International Relations, Aston University

The SPD and Greens have formed an obvious “bloc” since the mid-1990s at the latest, and nobody will be in the least bit surprised by the SPD’s obvious overtures. An SPD-Green coalition, however, is unlikely as the numbers appear simply not to stack up – it is far more likely that the CDU/CSU, FDP and Left Party will outnumber them. If neither the SPD and Greens have a majority, nor the CDU/CSU and FDP, a likely scenario is a grand coalition led by the CDU/CSU – this option does not enthuse the SPD’s grassroots, but they may have little alternative.



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