German election roundup: Facing climate change, coalition trust issues and Merkel bids goodbye to Stralsund

Facing up to climate change, fighting talk on coalition building and Merkel saying goodbye to her constituency: here's what we've seen on the German election campaign agenda on Tuesday.

German election roundup: Facing climate change, coalition trust issues and Merkel bids goodbye to Stralsund
Annalena Baerbock on the campaign trail on Tuesday in Freiburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Philipp von Ditfurth

‘Full steam ahead’ on tackling climate change

The Greens’ chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock says Germany must go “full steam ahead on climate protection”.

The coal phase-out should take place well before 2030, Baerbock said at an election campaign event in Freiburg. The restructuring of industry must be accelerated because “the markets of the future are climate neutral,” she said. Here, she added, industry is already further ahead than the German government.

And on the topic of climate change, the Social Democrat’s candidate chancellor Olaf Scholz has accused his rival party – the CDU/CSU – of failure when it comes to Germany’s energy policy. 

Scholz, who is currently leading in the polls, took a swipe at German Economics Minister Peter Altmaier, saying he had failed to adapt the country’s industrial policy.

During an election campaign event in Wolfsburg, Scholz said the CDU/CSU had denied for years that there would be a massive increase in demand for electricity due to the transformation of industry toward climate neutrality.

Coalition fighting talk from Laschet 

Armin Laschet, the CDU/CSU candidate for chancellor, has warned the pro-business FDP against forming a coalition with the SPD and the Greens.

“In a traffic light (Ampel) coalition, the FDP would be constantly threatened with expulsion – because the Left would immediately be standing by. And (FDP leader) Christian Lindner knows that the Union is a reliable partner,” the CDU politician said on Tuesday. 

A so-called traffic light coalition – an alliance between the FDP (yellow), the Greens and the SPD (red) – would have a majority according to current polls. But Laschet’s fighting talk may be going to waste – according to Lindner, the FDP has little in common with the SPD and Greens anyway.

Free Voters target AfD supporters

In Bavaria, the head of the Free Voters (Freie Wähler), Hubert Aiwanger, says he is canvassing for votes from potential AfD (Alternative for Germany) supporters shortly before the federal election.

“Votes for far-right parties primarily benefit the left-wing parties, which only come into government as a result,” Aiwanger said.

“Germany needs a liberal-value-conservative force in the Bundestag that is capable of forming a coalition,” he said, referring to his own party.

“The Free Voters take the concerns of citizens seriously and therefore in many cases prevent people from voting AfD out of frustration.” The Free Voters govern in Bavaria in a coalition with the CSU and are also represented in the state parliaments of Rhineland-Palatinate and Brandenburg.

What do the polls say?

The latest polls show the SPD, with 25 percent, still a couple of points ahead of the CDU/CSU with 22 percent. The Greens stand at 17 percent, the AfD and the FDP are at 11 percent, and Die Linke (the Left) are at six percent. 

Merkel bids goodbye to Stralsund

Angela Merkel visited her constituency for the last time as chancellor on Tuesday, along with her would-be successor Armin Laschet, who is badly in need of a boost just days before the country goes to the polls, AFP reported. 

in 1990, Merkel won the seat in constituency 267, which includes the Baltic Sea town of Stralsund and the island of Rügen, beginning her journey to the chancellery.

Angela Merkel meeting voters in the fishing village of Waase on the island of Ummanz, part of her constituency. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Sauer

Even after 16 years holding the reins of the Bundesrepublik, Merkel “basically hasn’t changed,” Molkentin told AFP, sitting at the table where he once welcomed her for coffee and cake.

“She was a very simple, stable and trustworthy person, which she still is,” said the octogenarian of Merkel, who will step down after Sunday’s elections following four consecutive terms as chancellor.

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Germany’s ‘traffic light’ parties sign coalition agreement in Berlin

Two and a half months after the federal elections on September 26th, the three parties of the incoming 'traffic light' coalition - the SPD, Greens and FDP - have formally signed their coalition agreement at a public ceremony in Berlin.

Traffic light coalition
Germany's next Chancellor Olaf Scholz (front, left) on stage in Berlin with other members of the new coalition government, and their signed agreement. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

The move marks the final stage of a 10-week week process that saw the three unlikely bedfellows forming a first-of-its-kind partnership in German federal government. 

The SPD’s Olaf Scholz is now due to be elected Chancellor of Germany on Wednesday and his newly finalised cabinet will be sworn in on the same day. This will mark the end of the 16-year Angela Merkel era following the veteran leader’s decision to retire from politics this year. 

Speaking at the ceremony in Berlin on Tuesday morning, Scholz declared it “a morning when we set out for a new government.”

He praised the speed at which the three parties had concluded their talks and said the fight against the Covid crisis would first require the full strength of the new coalition.

Green Party co-leader Robert Habeck, who is set to head up a newly formed environment and energy ministry, said the goal was “a government for the people of Germany”.

He stressed that the new government would face the joint challenge of bringing climate neutrality and prosperity together in Europe’s largest industrial nation and the world’s fourth largest economy.

Green Party leader Annalena Baerbock spoke of a coalition agreement “on the level of reality, on the level of social reality”.

FDP leader Christian Lindner, who managed to secure the coveted role of Finance Minister in the talks, declared that now was the “time for action”.

“We are not under any illusions,” he told people gathered at the ceremony. “These are great challenges we face.”

Scholz, Habeck and Lindner are scheduled to hold  a press conference before midday to answer questions on the goals of the new government.

‘New beginnings’

Together with the Greens and the FDP, Scholz’s SPD managed in a far shorter time than expected to forge a coalition that aspires to make Germany greener and fairer.

The Greens became the last of the three parties to agree on the contents of the 177-page coalition agreement an in internal vote on Monday, following approval from the SPD and FDP’s inner ranks over the weekend.

“I want the 20s to be a time of new beginnings,” Scholz told Die Zeit weekly, declaring an ambition to push forward “the biggest industrial modernisation which will be capable of stopping climate change caused by mankind”.

Putting equality rhetoric into practice, he unveiled the country’s first gender-balanced cabinet on Monday, with women in key security portfolios.

“That corresponds to the society we live in – half of the power belongs to women,” said Scholz, who describes himself as a “feminist”.

READ ALSO: Scholz names Germany’s first gender-equal cabinet

The centre-left’s return to power in Europe’s biggest economy could shift the balance on a continent still reeling from Brexit and with the other major player, France, heading into presidential elections in 2022.

But even before it took office, Scholz’s “traffic-light” coalition – named after the three parties’ colours – was already given a baptism of fire in the form of a fierce fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Balancing act
Dubbed “the discreet” by left-leaning daily TAZ, Scholz, 63, is often described as austere or robotic.
But he also has a reputation for being a meticulous workhorse.
An experienced hand in government, Scholz was labour minister in Merkel’s first coalition from 2007 to 2009 before taking over as vice chancellor and finance minister in 2015.
Yet his three-party-alliance is the first such mix at the federal level, as the FDP is not a natural partner for the SPD or the Greens.

Keeping the trio together will require a delicate balancing act taking into account the FDP’s business-friendly leanings, the SPD’s social equality instincts and the Greens’ demands for sustainability.

Under their coalition deal, the parties have agreed to secure Germany’s path to carbon neutrality, including through huge investments in sustainable energy.

They also aim to return to a constitutional no-new-debt rule – suspended during the pandemic – by 2023.

FDP cabinets
Volker Wissing (l-r), FDP General Secretary und designated Transport Minister, walks alongside Christian Lindner, FDP leader and designated Finance Minister, Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP), the incoming Education Minister, and Marco Buschmann, the incoming Justice Minister. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler


Incoming foreign minister Annalena Baerbock of the Greens has vowed to put human rights at the centre of German diplomacy.

She has signalled a more assertive stance towards authoritarian regimes like China and Russia after the commerce-driven pragmatism of Merkel’s 16 years in power.

Critics have accused Merkel of putting Germany’s export-dependent economy first in international dealings.

Nevertheless she is still so popular at home that she would probably have won a fifth term had she sought one.

The veteran politician is also widely admired abroad for her steady hand guiding Germany through a myriad of crises.