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World Explainer-Blending chalk and cheese: assembling a government for Germany

18:10  04 october  2021
18:10  04 october  2021 Source:   reuters.com

German election to set direction after 16 years under Merkel

  German election to set direction after 16 years under Merkel BERLIN (AP) — Germany's closely fought election on Sunday will set the direction of the European Union's most populous country after 16 years under Angela Merkel, whose party is scrambling to avoid defeat by its center-left rivals after a rollercoaster campaign. The environmentalist Greens also are eyeing at least a share of power. About 60.4 million people in the nation of 83 million are eligible to elect the new parliament, which decides who will be the next head of government. Recent polls point to a neck-and-neck race between Merkel's center-right Union bloc and the Social Democrats, with the latter marginally ahead.

By Thomas Escritt

FILE PHOTO: FDP leader Lindner meets with Greens party co-leaders Baerbock and Habeck, in Berlin © Reuters/ANNEGRET HILSE FILE PHOTO: FDP leader Lindner meets with Greens party co-leaders Baerbock and Habeck, in Berlin

BERLIN (Reuters) - Whether the Social Democrats' Olaf Scholz or a conservative becomes the next German chancellor, they will probably need to bring into their coalition two smaller parties that are far apart on many of the issues that will shape Germany's future.

Any majority will rest on the Greens, led by former competitive athlete Annalena Baerbock and novelist Robert Habeck, and the business-friendly Free Democrats, led by former energy trader Christian Lindner, finding areas of agreement https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/new-besties-german-greens-fdp-cosy-up-build-coalition-2021-09-29.

Merkel's legacy looms large over Germany. Who will step up in her place?

  Merkel's legacy looms large over Germany. Who will step up in her place? “Whoever comes in isn’t going to have that stature, isn’t going to have that kind of history and practice,” one analyst said.After 16 years beset by crises and critics, Angela Merkel, arguably the world’s most powerful woman, is stepping down from the world stage.

While Baerbock's progressive environmentalists and Lindner's libertarians are further from each other than either is from the Social Democrats or the conservatives, their youthful voter bases give them some things in common, especially on social and foreign policy.

NO DANCEMASTER - THIS IS FREESTYLE DISCO

In many countries, the president or monarch invites parties to enter talks on forming a government. In Germany, it's up to the parties to find their own dance partners.

That can cause confusion, as now, when both the first-placed SPD and the second-placed conservatives say they have a mandate to drag the other two parties onto the dance floor.

But the two smaller parties, the Greens and the FDP, have seized the initiative and agree common ground before turning to any suitor.

The Latest: Some German voters struggle to pick next leader

  The Latest: Some German voters struggle to pick next leader The Latest on Germany's election: ___ BERLIN — Voters are delivering a mixed verdict on the era of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel as they choose a new German parliament, and some are struggling with the choice of potential new leaders. Polls opened Sunday after a rollercoaster campaign. Recent surveys point to a very close race between Merkel’s center-right Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats, with the Greens trailing in third. In___

If talks break down, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier can step in. In 2017, the Free Democrats quit talks with the conservatives and Greens after two months. Steinmeier all but ordered a reluctant SPD to step up.

A "grand coalition" of the conservatives with the SPD took office in March 2018. Scholz hopes to conclude coalition talks by Christmas. But if history repeats itself, all bets are off.

CLIMATE CHANGE

The Greens want to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions within 20 years through "a massive expansion offensive for renewables". The FDP wants Germany to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The SPD and conservatives can wait until 2045.

The Greens also seek to set a general speed limit on Germany's 'no limits' motorways, an idea the FDP hates, and the two also disagree on whether combustion-powered cars should be banned in the medium term, and on taxing air travel more.

EXPLAINER: How and when Germany will form a new government

  EXPLAINER: How and when Germany will form a new government BERLIN (AP) — Germany's voters have delivered their verdict. Now it's up to party leaders to thrash out who will succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel after 16 years in office and with what political priorities. The shape of Germany's new Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, is now clear. But there are majorities for three more or less plausible new coalition governments, and it could take weeks or months to put a new administration in place. Here's a look at how the process works. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?The first-placed party typically leads German governments, but that isn't always the case. It can end up in opposition if other parties form a coalition without it.

HOW TO BALANCE THE BOOKS?

The FDP seeks to cut taxes for everyone - a giveaway the IW institute estimates will cost 60 billion euros ($70.3 billion), which would be almost 20% of federal tax revenue. The Greens want to lower the threshold for those paying the top tax rate of 45% and to introduce a 48% band for ultra-high earners. They also want to reform the debt brake to promote public investment.

The conservative CDU/CSU bloc wants gradual tax cuts, while the Social Democrats (SPD) want to help those on small and medium incomes and increase taxes for the top 5%.

WHAT ABOUT EUROPE?

Along with the conservatives, the FDP rejects a "debt union" and wants to ensure that joint European Union borrowing to finance the EU's coronavirus recovery package remains a one-off.

The Greens favour a common European fiscal policy to support investment in the environment, research, infrastructure and education.

The SPD regards the recovery package as the basis for building new trust in Europe and has talked about taking steps towards a fiscal union.

AND THE WORLD?

The Greens and the FDP are more wary of China than the SPD or the conservatives, agreeing that Chinese firms should have no part in the building of Germany's next-generation telecoms networks to keep them secure.

Germany's Election Produced No Clear Winner. Here's What Happens Next

  Germany's Election Produced No Clear Winner. Here's What Happens Next Now the coalition building beginsThe result was a disappointing one for the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), part of the ruling coalition in Germany for 16 years under Angela Merkel, which lost its lead in the vote share to the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). Ending on 25.7% of the vote, the SPD celebrated a 5 percentage point increase on their 2017 result. The CDU came a close second on 24.1%, a dramatic decrease from 33% in 2017.

The Greens say the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will take gas from Russia to Europe, will boost Germany's reliance on Russia for energy and should not be allowed to come into operation. The FDP don't go as far as this, but are more sceptical than the SPD.

LONELY STANDS

In some areas the Greens are a lonely minority: alone among the four parties that could enter government, they oppose increasing German military spending to NATO's target of 2% of economic output.

In other areas, the FDP is on its own. The three other parties would increase the minimum hourly wage to 12 euros ($14). The FDP says this is not a matter for the government.

THE ANTI-FAX ALLIANCE

Both the Greens and FDP are strongly in favour of investment to improve digital infrastructure. They share a young voter base exasperated by Germany's fax- and phone-bound public administration.

The broad consensus could be useful when it comes to papering over their differences in fiscal policy.

HAPPILY EVER AFTER?

The Greens and the FDP would legalise cannabis sales tomorrow, as would the SPD, and allow people to vote from 16.

All three parties would be prepared to allow dual citizenship - a huge change for thousands of ethnic Turks, many of whom remain foreign nationals after decades in Germany.

The Greens and the FDP would allow civil servants to wear religious headscarves at work. The SPD and conservatives would not.

($1 = 0.8537 euros)

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt, Editing by Mark Heinrich and Timothy Heritage)

Explainer: Germany's next government faces three big economic challenges .
Explainer: Germany's next government faces three big economic challengesBERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel has steered Germany through many crises over the past 16 years, but she has also left behind a mixed legacy and failed to tackle some deep structural problems in Europe's largest economy.

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