Germany: In spite of their skepticism SPD’s members said yes to grand coalition

In the end the burden of proof will fall on SPD leaded and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel who now has the opportunity to turn this coalition into a success. Read few comments by Christian SchweigerLecturer in Government, Department of Politics, Durham University.

I think the almost 76 percent of support for the grand coalition amongst the SPD members shows that, in spite of their scepticism about giving Angela Merkel another mandate to be Chancellor, the majority of Social Democrats realise that the party will have to take on responsibility under the difficult circumstances. Anything else (like a red-red-green coalition) may have been preferential from a Social Democratic point of view but it would have most likely been electoral suicide. The SPD leadership and especially the ministers in the new cabinet now have to be extremely careful to ensure that they are not just perceived as Merkel’s reserve troops but as ministers who actively and self-confidently ensure that the Social Democratic elements of the coalition agreement is put into concrete action. The members and also the trade unions will certainly monitor this government’s daily business with a critical eye and any notion that SPD positions in the coalition agreement are abandoned could lead to a severe internal crisis in the SPD.

In the end the burden of proof will fall on Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel who now has the opportunity to turn this coalition into a success and if he does so and keeps the Social Democratic profile he may have a realistic chance to become Chancellor himself after the 2017 general election, similar to Williy Brandt in 1969 after the 1966-69 grand coalition which helped him to boost his standing amongst voters.

On the likely SPD selections for the cabinet posts – they certainly show that Gabriel is trying to please all regional sections of the SPD. This explains why (if is indeed the case) the deputy prime minister and leader of the Saar SPD, Heiko Maas, will become justice minister and the current SPD treasurer Barbara Hendricks environment minister (she represents the largest regional division of the SPD in North Rhine Westphalia). He also tries to please the left wing of the party by including general secretary Andrea Nahles in the cabinet as minister for employment and welfare. If this works out remains to be seen but the cabinet is definitely a lot more inclusive of the different fractions of the SPD than the previous grand coalition (2005-2009).


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