Status: 26.09.2023, 07:06 a.m.
The government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has argued a lot, but has also implemented many promises. © Andreas Arnold/dpa
Today marks two years since the Bundestag elections. At half-time, the image of the traffic light is quite battered. The second half of the parliamentary term is unlikely to be any easier.
You can think about the traffic light and say what you want, one thing is undisputed: Hardly any other new federal government has started its term of office as turbulently as that of Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD). Today marks the second anniversary of the election that led to the first alliance between the SPD, the Greens and the FDP at the federal level.
The first half of the legislative period is thus over. It was first marked by the Corona pandemic, then by the war against Ukraine and finally by the ongoing dispute in the coalition over the Heating Act or basic child benefits. Half two is unlikely to get any easier for the traffic lights.
Traffic light phase one: Departure
At the beginning of the traffic light was the departure. When Chancellor Scholz made his first government statement in the Bundestag in mid-December 2021, this word appeared ten times, progress as many as 31 times. At the time, the traffic light coalition wanted to present itself as a reform alliance that tackles the major issues of the future: the fight against global warming, the climate-friendly restructuring of the economy.
In addition, the fight against Corona was still in the foreground at that time. Nobody really thought about war yet. Ukraine was not mentioned once in the Chancellor's government statement, with a record length of 86 minutes.
Traffic light phase two: a turning point
The departure phase lasted 82 days. Then the Russian attack on Ukraine catapulted the traffic light into a new reality. With his Zeitenwende speech in the Bundestag on 27 February 2022 - three days after the start of the war - Chancellor Scholz made a paradigm shift in foreign policy, broke a taboo with the arms deliveries into an ongoing war and announced the massive rearmament of the Bundeswehr.
The crisis welded the coalition together, even if there were frictions - for example, in the pace of arms deliveries. Above all, the coalition managed to avert the feared bottlenecks in the energy supply. Despite all the gloomy scenarios, Germany came through the winter quite well.
Traffic light phase three: crunching and crashing
On the first anniversary of the start of the war in February 2023, the image of the coalition looked quite decent. Even the Ukrainian government stopped complaining about the hesitant Germans after the provision of Leopard 2 main battle tanks. The German government turned its gaze inwards.
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The Chancellor began his narrative of more confidence that the major issues of the future should finally be tackled courageously. However, the coalition did not get the curve from crisis to design mode very well. It began to crunch and then crash. The heating law became a symbol of disunity, indiscretion and a massive loss of confidence among the population.
Mid-term review one: The poll results
The result is that the poll numbers of the traffic light are quite deep in the basement at the halfway point of the legislative period. In the 2021 federal election, the SPD, Greens and FDP together still won 52 percent.
In the current survey of eight institutes, they now average 37.7 percent, far from a majority. According to a YouGov survey in August, 72 percent of Germans are dissatisfied with the government's work in the first half of the election period.
68 percent do not trust her to solve the country's pressing problems. And only 2025 percent still believe in Scholz's re-election of the traffic light coalition in the 18 federal election.
Mid-term review two: The facts
However, none of this fits in with the verdict of a large-scale study by the Bertelsmann Foundation on the implementation of the coalition agreement. The traffic light government has made a "very good start overall," the authors conclude.
Of the 453 promises from the coalition agreement, almost two-thirds (64 percent) have either been implemented (38 percent) or launched (26 percent). Compared to the previous government, the traffic light had achieved proportionately slightly less, but the absolute number of government projects already tackled was higher.
Does it work to govern with a silencer?
So is the traffic light better than its reputation after all? In any case, public interaction with each other seems to be one of the government's biggest problems. Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck once put it this way: "We are constantly messing it up ourselves. And of course, that's no secret of success in the long run."
For the second half, the coalition partners have now decided to govern with a silencer, as Chancellor Scholz called it, at their summer retreat at Schloss Meseberg near Berlin.
Whether the good intention holds will be seen as early as October, when state elections are due in two of Germany's most populous states. In Bavaria and Hesse, the FDP is scratching the five percent hurdle. Even in previous electoral defeats at the state level, she then let off steam in Berlin.
It can also be uncomfortable for the SPD. A crushing defeat in Bavaria with a possible single-digit result is priced in. But if Scholz's Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) clearly fails in Hesse, the Social Democrats could become nervous.
Super election year 2024 as a run-up to the Bundestag election
Bavaria and Hesse are only the prelude to a series of elections that will shape the second half of the legislative period. June 9, 2024 is super election day with the European elections and local elections in nine federal states. This will be followed in September by state elections in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg. In all three countries, the AfD is now far ahead in polls at more than 30 percent.
The right-wing party's soaring popularity is already dominating the political debate in Berlin to a large extent. Chancellor Scholz will never tire of predicting that the AfD will not be stronger in the next federal election than in the last one with 10.3 percent - which is tantamount to halving its current poll numbers. But even the biggest optimists in his own party hardly dare to believe that.
In any case, the defining issues of the second half of the legislative period are likely to be coping with the economic downturn, freeing the country from excessive bureaucracy, but also dealing with the growing number of migrants. What is achieved in these fields is also likely to decide the fate of the traffic light. In any case, the 2025 Bundestag election campaign has long since begun. Dpa