What you need to know about Germany’s upcoming coalition talks

The Greens co-leaders Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck with FDP leader Christian Lindner on the right after talks on Friday.
The Greens co-leaders Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck with FDP leader Christian Lindner on the right after talks on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler
The Social Democrats may have narrowly won the German election ahead of the CDU/CSU - but it's the Greens and the Free Democrats who arguably hold the most power right now. Here's how parties are starting talks to form a new government.

GREENS AND FDP AS KINGMAKERS

Yes, the centre-left Social Democrats may have won Sunday’s vote ahead of the centre-right CDU/CSU. But two parties – the Greens in third place, and the Free Democrats (FDP) in fourth spot – are in powerful positions in the race to form the next three-way coalition government. 

Despite holding different positions in many policy areas, the Greens and the FDP teamed up immediately after the vote. Greens co-leaders Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck, along with FDP leader Christian Lindner and secretary general Volker Wissing, even held secret talks on Tuesday and posted a selfie that went viral. 

READ ALSO: Jamaica or Traffic Light? What’s next for Germany and what does it mean?

They are seeking to build a coalition with either the Social Democrats (which would make a so-called Traffic Light or Ampel coalition) or the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) – known as a Jamaica formation because the party colours match the Jamaican flag. 

And right now they have a lot of leverage – because whoever leads the next government needs them. 

The two parties were also the most popular with younger voters. The largest portion (21 percent) of the business and digital-friendly FDP’s voters were 18- to 24-year-olds, and it was a similar figure for the Greens.

Here’s a look at what’s happened so far and what the coming days hold. 

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FRIDAY TALKS

The Greens and the FDP met for a second round of so-called exploratory talks on Friday, which will focus more on the content and goals of a possible future coalition. Think less selfies and beer, and more endless cups of coffees while thrashing out the parties’ stances. 

Speaking after the talks, FDP leader Christian Lindner said: “The Greens and the FDP are the forces that have challenged the status quo the most. We feel we have a mandate to form a new beginning in Germany.

“Now we’re holding talks on how we can overcome the divisions and build bridges.”

Before the meeting, the Greens signalled their willingness to compromise – for instance on the introduction of a general Autobahn speed limit in Germany, which the FDP is against.

The Greens said, however, that they would first enter the talks with their “entire positions”, “including a speed limit of 130 km/h on motorways”.

READ ALSO: Will Germany soon introduce an Autobahn speed limit?

Both parties however are keen to change how things are done in Germany – and that’s perhaps what attracted younger voters to these two sides.  

An interesting point that unites them: the FDP and Greens both want to abolish paragraph 219a of abortion law, which makes doctors advertising too much information about abortions a punishable offence. The CDU/CSU, on the other hand, wants to retain paragraph 219a.

They’ll be looking for more common ground in these talks before they start the discussions with the SPD and the CDU/CSU.

WEEKEND TALKS

On Saturday, the Greens will meet for a small party conference.

On Sunday, the Social Democrats want to talk first with the FDP, then with the Greens. In the evening at around 6:30pm, the CDU/CSU wants to meet with representatives of the FDP.

NEXT WEEK

On Tuesday, the CDU/CSU has invited the Greens to talks in the morning.

WHO ARE THE NEGOTIATING TEAMS?

The Greens and the FDP are each coming with 10 negotiators, the SPD with six, and the CDU and CSU are sending a total of 15. 

Among the negotiating team for the Greens is the party leaders, plus state premier of Baden-Württemberg Winfried Kretschmann.

A Green paper for the small party conference states that the exploratory talks should lead to coalition talks “swiftly and in a spirit of trust”. The tough negotiations in 2017 on the formation of a coalition between the CDU/CSU, the Greens and the FDP, which the Liberals then ultimately let fall through, should not be repeated, they said. 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The SPD wants to form a coalition with the Greens and the FDP (Traffic Light). The CDU/CSU wants to form a coalition with the Greens and the FDP (Jamaica). Coalition talks will undoubtedly be tough as each party tries to get the best deal for them. 

And we have no idea at this point exactly which coalition is more likely although the SPD, with chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz, is seen as having a slight upper hand due to them coming first in the election.

If all coalition talks fail, there could be a minority government – or fresh elections held.

Until all of this is worked out, Merkel will remain chancellor as head of the caretaker government in Germany. She will step down only when the new government is formed whenever that may be. 

As we’ve been reporting, both the SPD’s Scholz, and the CDU’s Armin Laschet said they want to see a new German government in place by Christmas – that’s December 24th in Germany, just under three months away. 


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