German parties aim for Scholz-led government by early December

The three parties working to form Germany's next coalition government said Thursday they were aiming for Finance Minister Olaf Scholz from the Social Democrats to be installed as chancellor in the week of December 6th.

SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz arrives at coalition negotiations in Berlin on Thursday.
SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz arrives at coalition negotiations in Berlin on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Britta Pedersen

“The timeline is ambitious,” said Volker Wissing, general secretary of the liberal Free Democrats, at the start of formal coalition talks with the centre-left SPD and the Greens.

“Germany needs to have a stable government as soon as possible,” he added.

The three parties, which have never before teamed up together on a federal level in Germany, said they wanted the coalition negotiations to be wrapped up by the end of November.

READ ALSO: Germany is showing the world it can do grown-up politics

This would allow for a government to be in place early December, with Scholz to be elected chancellor by the Bundestag lower house of parliament “in the week of December 6th”, Wissing said.

The three parties had earlier aimed for a Christmas deadline, signalling they were optimistic about clinching a deal despite not being natural bedfellows.

If they succeed in sticking to the faster timeframe, Chancellor Angela Merkel will fall short of breaking Helmut Kohl’s record as the longest-serving leader in post-war Germany.

Merkel herself is bowing out after 16 years in power but will stay on in a caretaker capacity until the new government is in place.

Her conservative CDU-CSU alliance slumped to its worst-ever result in the September 26th general election, leaving the bloc preparing for a stint on the opposition benches.


However, CDU leader and chancellor hopeful Armin Laschet has said he remains open to trying to form a government should the Scholz-led effort fail.

But the SPD, Greens and FDP have voiced confidence they can build what they have called a “coalition of progress”.

Green party general secretary Michael Kellner said Germany had a chance “at a new start for the first time in 16 years”.

Negotiators from the three parties will now split up across 22 working groups to come up with what will be the basis for a coalition agreement.

They will be working from an in-principle agreement struck last week, which sketched out the major policy priorities for the next four years.

It includes massive investments in climate protection, infrastructure and education to help Europe’s top economy prepare for a greener and more digital future.

With pledges to respect Germany’s debt limits and not raise taxes, it remains to be seen however how the plans will be financed.

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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.