Newsletter German Politics - July 2023

Friday, 14 July 2023


Thoughts of Magnus Ehrenberg, Founder & President of
EHRENBERG SØRENSEN Kommunikation about German Politics

Newsletter on German Politics July


As the German Bundestag commenced its parliamentary summer recess last week, a moment of respite has enveloped German politics, allowing for a recharge and strategic recalibration in preparation for the forthcoming parliamentary session. Following the 2021 elections, the reins of power were assumed by the so-called "traffic light coalition", made up of the Social Democrats, Greens, and Liberals. With a little over two years remaining until the next general elections in 2025, the political landscape braces for pivotal state elections in Hesse, which is currently being run by a CDU and Greens coalition and Bavaria, which has a CSU and Freie Wähler coalition, this autumn.


The atmosphere within the current federal government coalition is fraught with tension. Rather than fostering internal discourse and subsequently presenting unified solutions, the coalition partners have taken to external squabbling, exacerbating an already precarious situation. One such instance pertains to a recent law about heat pumps that was fought over fiercely inside the coalition. Even after finally coming to a compromise, the government coalition faced an unfortunate setback due to mishandling the legislative process in the Supreme Court's purview. The vote on the so called “Gebäudeenergiegesetz” was meant to take place in the last week before the parliaments summer recess. But a last-minute appeal by the opposition to the supreme court prevented this as it was reasoned that the parliamentarians were not given sufficient time to study the law, as it was only given to them a week before the vote. The sentiment expressed by public opinion polls reflects a pervasive discontent among German voters, stemming from a government entangled in protracted discord over the formulation of legislation. Now, the "traffic light coalition" appears entrenched in its current state of unpopularity, exhibiting an apparent inability to effectively orchestrate the seamless progression of legislative measures.


One might surmise that the CDU and CSU would stand to gain from such disarray. However, this assumption would be misplaced, as their popularity remains below their potential. While they ideally ought to consistently poll above 35%, they seldom surpass the 30% mark. Even if Friedrich Merz, the head of the Christian Democrats, were to successfully unite the Bundestag faction, his appeal outside the party remains rather limited. There is even mention of the "10 effect," a notion that ascribes Merz's unpopularity to him being ten centimeters too tall and ten years too old. Instead, the AfD, positioned not merely as right-wing populist but as right-wing extremist, continues to thrive. A historical analysis reveals that they amass significant support in the very same constituencies that favored the NSDAP in the 1930s, predominantly in the eastern regions beyond the Elbe. The established parties find themselves grappling with the challenge of effectively addressing this surge. Despite considerable investments poured into the former East German states, discontent continues to rise and perceptions that lean towards an affinity for Putin are abound, with initiatives emanating from Berlin frequently being interpreted as manifestations of imperialism or superiority. Many of the the AfD voters opted for the left-wing party Die Linke in previous years, seeking not so much solutions as an outlet for expressing their dissatisfaction. While the western regions beyond the Elbe have a longstanding tradition of addressing issues through democratic means, this is a quality that often eludes the eastern counterparts.


With these considerations in mind, one can deduce that the political landscape in Germany is on the brink of a dynamic autumn, characterized by notable developments. A significant event in this regard is the recent dismissal of Mario Czaja, the Secretary General of the CDU, which further amplifies the anticipation. As a replacement, Carsten Linnemann has been appointed, resembling a younger iteration of Friedrich Merz, both sharing conservative ideologies and possessing economic expertise. This transition appears to reflect Merz's endeavor to exert greater influence over the party's trajectory. Notably, two CDU minister presidents, Daniel Günther of Schleswig-Holstein and Hendrik Wüst of North Rhine-Westphalia, have expressed their aspirations for the CDU to realign itself with the more liberal and less conservative stances of the past, aiming to rekindle the party's essence during the tenure of former Chancellor Angela Merkel, foreshadowing a potential future conflict inside the CDU. 


With eyes already cast towards the 2025 elections, speculation runs rife as to the endurance of the current political constellation. It seems implausible that the existing configuration will persist. Consequently, attention has shifted towards the prospect of a so-called "Kenya coalition," a term that warrants elucidation. Such a coalition would involve a collaboration between parties representing the colors of the Kenyan flag, symbolizing an amalgamation of the CDU/CSU (black), the Greens (green), and the SPD (red). The outcome of the Hesse and Bavaria elections on 8 October is anticipated to furnish the first hints regarding the feasibility of this envisioned coalition. 


I will of course provide you with my opinion on the state of German Politics as the parliament reconvenes in September. Until then I wish all of you a great summer!


Magnus Ehrenberg

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