Loved this series so much, great conclusionView attachment 837313
The 2022 German election was held on the 5th June 2022 to elect the 20th Bundestag, with the ‘revolving Chancellors’, the SPD’s Olaf Scholz and the CDU’s Ursula von der Leyen, running for re-election under the banner of the grand coalition formed by the two parties.
The policy agenda of the government during the preceding term had been largely based on seeking consensus in contrast to the contentious far-right agenda of the Republicans and the radicalism of the more left-wing parties. In particular, von der Leyen and Klaus Wowereit spent much of 2018 and 2019 developing a comprehensive plan for a path to citizenship for refugees, including creating new jobs in education to help their integration into German society, such as language training. This programme helped deflate Republican attacks on the government’s pro-refugee stance somewhat, as it became harder for them to attack it without overt racism, and slightly softened public opinion on the issue.
Wowereit became Chancellor again in January 2020 in keeping with the coalition agreement, but his popularity among the public and the SPD had waned, as had his perceived enthusiasm. Ironically, he soon managed to significantly improve his popularity through his management of Germany’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as under his watch the coalition implemented a €130 billion stimulus package to cushion businesses and freelancers and chose to keep factories open with stringent sanitary procedures. This meant Germany weathered the pandemic more effectively than its neighbours like Italy or France, and his work pushing for a €750 billion pandemic recovery fund and a global corporate minimum tax also endeared him to his European partners.
In January 2021, once von der Leyen ascended to the Chancellorship again, Wowereit announced his retirement from politics and the SPD elected a new vice Chancellor (who would become Chancellor in 2022), giving the position to Minister of Finance and former First Mayor of Hamburg Olaf Scholz. Scholz was a very popular politician among much of the public, and although he was not well liked among the SPD left due to his strong support for the centrism of the coalition, he worked well with von der Leyen, particularly on their formulation of responses to the climate crisis, seeking a gradual withdrawal from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and a phaseout of coal use in Germany by 2030 instead of the previously targeted 2038. This was criticized on some fronts for causing a surge in energy prices.
The international and health policies the government pursued during von der Leyen’s second year as Chancellor also saw significant development of its stances, some of which were well received like its condemnation of the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang/East Turkestan, its implementation of sanctions on Belarus and its response to the humanitarian crisis associated with the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, while others were more controversial like its reluctance to sanction Turkey for its maritime drilling in Greek waters and its difficulties in rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination.
Once he became Chancellor in 2022, Scholz achieved significant praise when after the Russian invasion of Ukraine that February, he announced in his ‘Zeitenwende’ speech that Germany would renege on its previous opt-out from the 2% of GDP requirement for defence spending by NATO members and hasten its withdrawal from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, allowing it to militarily aid Ukraine and economically damage Russia. This policy platform was extremely well-received by the public and helped lead to a dramatic improvement in the SPD’s poll numbers, which had floundered for much of the preceding term.
The move also caused significant upheaval for the opposition. The Greens, led by Robert Habeck, managed to strengthen their position through criticism of the slow action of the government on environmental policy, while the KPD advanced a policy programme quite explicitly attacking capitalism as the main cause of the energy price surge instead of the shift to a more environmentalist policy focus, which proved controversial but resonated with its base. The Republicans faced a significant decline in their support after leader Alice Weidel accused Ukraine of provoking its invasion by seeking EU membership, a remark which proved very out of step with public opinion.
When the Bundestag was dissolved, the Green campaign soon attracted attention for its unusually vigorous campaign for the single-member constituencies. Capitalising on protest votes and voter antipathy towards the governing parties, one of the most senior figures in the Green campaign, Annalena Baerbock, claimed that the only choices in the first vote were ‘the government or the Greens’ for most voters. On top of this, they were able to criticise von der Leyen for correspondence over Pfizer’s sale of vaccines to Germany and Scholz for actions of his while mayor of Hamburg, particularly the CumEx tax fraud.
Sure enough, the election saw the Greens secure their best ever performance, surpassing 100 seats for the first time and Habeck becoming Leader of the Opposition. The KPD and FDP held fairly steady, the former also benefitting from the Greens’ advocacy for single-member constituency voting against the government, while the Republicans’ vote collapsed, with the party winning only slightly more seats than they had in 2014 and going from the largest non-government party to the smallest. Despite how dramatic the election was among the opposition, the governing parties’ results were fairly static.
The new Bundestag resoundingly re-elected Scholz to serve as Chancellor until the end of 2022, with von der Leyen returning at the start of 2023. Immediately after the election, it was being nicknamed the ‘Zeitenwendewahl’ (literally ‘times-turn vote’, but equivalent to the phrase ‘watershed election’ in English) due to the closeness of the major parties ideologically while opposition lay outside of the confines of the two of them. In the year since, however, the government has been perceived as more compromising on its policies, with the Nord Stream 2 withdrawal and the provision of German military aid to Ukraine progressing slowly.
The emergence of close political consensus between the biggest parties in Germany, however, remains a point of considerable contrast to the past.
(I’m pretty happy about finishing this just before the thread closes- sorry it took so long, but I hope you enjoyed it!)