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Germany: Parties Hold Talks on Unity Day

Thirty-one years ago today, Germany was reunited. A week ago today, several elections took place. Now, three government coalitions need to be formed. The election winners, and some of the losers, are gathering for countless rounds of talks.

Berlin, October 3rd, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) — If last Sunday’s elections in Mecklenburg-Hither Pomerania had been a soccer match, the losing clubs would probably have been disbanded. This is how bad the results were, from their perspective. First Minister Manuela Schwesig’s SPD beat them all, with 39.6 percent, meaning they got more than twice the support the second-strongest party, the extremist far-right AfD, ended up with, and three times the number of votes the conservative CDU pulled.

Picking Raisins

That is why nobody in Schwerin, the federal state’s capital, can even consider trying to form a government against the SPD. Mrs. Schwesig gets to pick the raisins. On Friday, she held talks with the CDU, just before she and her people tried to look for common ground with the far-left ‘Die Linke’ in another lengthy meeting. Because of the unambiguity of the situation, the talks and negotiations up there in Schwerin may be far less complicated than what is going on 210 kilometers (130 miles) south-east, in a city known as Berlin.

Berlin is both a city state and the German capital, meaning far more talks are taking place down here. Was there ever a time when there were more talks in Berlin? Probably not. A week after the elections for the Berlin House of Representatives, their winner Franziska Giffey, one of Manuela Schwesig’s party colleagues, is on a mission too. Forming a government is the goal, but Giffey’s approach is an open one. She will not just strike a deal for another center-left coalition with the Greens and ‘Die Linke’, the kind of partnership Governing Mayor Michael Müller has been heading, even though left-wingers in her own party want to make her pick this option.

‘Fresh Start’

Instead, she is turning towards both the left and the right. On Friday, the Greens came to talk to Franziska Giffey and her people in Berlin’s Wedding borough. The Green delegation was headed by Bettina Jarasch, who wanted to become Governing Mayor herself, but was overtaken by the SPD. A few hours later, ‘Die Linke’ was invited. Their delegation included Berlin’s Senator of Culture, Klaus Lederer. In both cases, some difficult subjects must have been on the agenda, including dispossessions of real estate companies. A majority of Berliners votes ‘yes’ in a referendum about this question a week ago. ‘Die Linke’ came up with this idea and the Greens basically support it, but Mrs. Giffey does not.

The same applies to the two center-right parties her delegation will talk to on Monday. First, it will the CDU’s turn. Its candidate Kai Wegner keeps on stating he was ready for a “fresh start”, meaning he really wants to become Mrs. Giffey’s junior partner in a new government coalition. In order to have a majority, they would need a third partner like the FDP. Tomorrow afternoon, they will be coming for even more talks. How many hours can a person sit around tables and talk without freaking out due to a lack of exercise?

Modest Margin

This question arises in Berlin, the capital, as well. Only a few miles from Mrs. Giffey’s temporary HQ in Wedding, the Social Democrats will be welcoming the FDP this afternoon. Last Sunday, the SPD had scored a triple victory. In Berlin, the federal state, Mecklenburg-Hither Pomerania and on the federal level, they beat everyone. In the elections for the Bundestag, they won by a modest margin of 1.6 percent ahead of the conservative CDU/CSU.

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While the ‘union parties’ are still in the process of realizing they lost and accepting the fact that the Merkel era is over, the SPD will hold talks with their favorite potential coalition partner, namely the Greens. Earlier this week, the FDP and the Greens had already met twice. According to the FDP’s chairman Christian Lindner, they did find some common ground. By talking separately, even before they met with the big parties, they intended to find out if and how they could cooperate. Both parties have red lines they will not cross, but both are willing to compromise on certain issues.

Price Tag

Will the Greens get their speed limit on the Autobahn and the Environment Ministry, while the FDP gets a guarantee no taxes will be raised, and the Finance Ministry? If this is what it says on the price tag for a three-way coalition, one of the big players, or both, might want to go for it. The CDU will actually hold one round of talks this evening, with their favorite partner FDP.

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