Explanatory-What are the main topics in the federal election in Germany?
BERLIN (Reuters) – The manifestos of the parties fighting to form the next German government set very different visions for the future of the country and Europe after the general election in September.
What is at stake is the direction that Germany, Europe’s largest economy, will take after the departure of Angela Merkel as Chancellor. In power since 2005, she plans to resign after the September 26 elections.
The Conservatives promise the voters “stability and renewal” in their manifesto. Their main rivals are the green ecologists, followed by the left-wing Social Democrats (SPD) and the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP).
WHAT WERE THE BIG CAMPAIGN PROBLEMS?
Trust. Who can Germans rely on when they replace Merkel, who led them through the euro crisis, the migrant crisis in 2015 and now the coronavirus pandemic?
The conservative candidate for Chancellor Armin Laschet emphasizes his experiences with the government of the most populous federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The candidate of the Greens, Annalena Baerbock, countered this with the promise of a “new beginning”.
FDP leader Christian Lindner also says that Germany cannot rest on its laurels and must adapt to a rapidly changing world.
SPD Finance Minister Olaf Scholz presents himself as a safe couple in Merkel’s “Grand Coalition”.
WHAT ABOUT DIFFERENCES IN POLITICS?
Much of the political debate was framed when a top court ruled in late April that Germany must update its climate law by the end of next year to determine how it will cut CO2 emissions to near zero by 2050.
The conservatives want to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality by 2045, as do the SPD. The Greens are more ambitious and want to achieve neutrality in 20 years through “a massive expansion campaign for renewables”. The FDP refers to the German goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050.
Climate policy and the payment method for adaptation to a cleaner environment are closely linked to the division in public finances and taxes and flow into the policy towards the European Union.
HOW TO EVALUATE THE BOOKS?
The conservatives promise gradual tax breaks and a commitment to Germany’s constitutionally anchored debt brake, which limits new debt to a tiny fraction of economic output, but was suspended during the coronavirus crisis. It is unclear how they will relieve the tax burden, a promise that they leaned on the FDP, and keep the debt in check.
The Greens want to lower the threshold for the top tax rate of 45% and introduce a 48 percent margin for super-earners. They also want to reform the debt brake to encourage public investment.
The SPD wants to help low and middle earners and increase taxes for the top 5%.
WHAT ABOUT EUROPE?
Both the Conservatives and the FDP reject a “debt union” and want to ensure that joint EU borrowing to finance the bloc’s coronavirus recovery package remains an isolated case.
The Greens, on the other hand, are in favor of a common European financial policy to promote investments in the environment, research, infrastructure and education.
The SPD sees the economic stimulus package as the basis for new confidence in Europe and speaks of steps towards a fiscal union.
WHO ARE LIKELY TO RULE?
No party is alone on the way to a majority, which is why Germany will be governed by a coalition again after the election, although the SPD does not want to be the junior partner of the conservatives again.
The Conservatives and the FDP, partners in the past and on equal terms on important issues, would like to join forces, but opinion polls suggest that they will lack the numbers to form a government.
The Conservatives and Greens may have enough support for the government, but they disagree on many issues. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier may have to urge them to resolve their differences.
The Greens would rather lead a government with the SPD and FDP. The FDP has kept it cool, but could be forced to make a decision before the election if the Greens win back in the opinion polls.
Conservative-Greens-FDP interaction is also possible, but talks about such a coalition failed after the last election in 2017.
If the Conservatives win the most votes, Laschet will likely become Chancellor – with either the Greens or the FDP or both in the back.
Writing from Paul Carrel, Timothy Heritage Editor