Merkel’s coalition partner back in business

Angela Merkel's coalition partner the Free Democratic Party (FDP) is back above the crucial five percent mark in a major opinion poll – but that would still not be enough to provide the German chancellor with another government.

Merkel's coalition partner back in business
Photo: DPA

The latest weekly opinion poll by state broadcaster ARD gave the FDP a much-needed psychological boost after months as a political pariah.

The poll, published Friday, puts Vice Chancellor Philipp Rösler’s party one percentage point up, with five percent of the population saying they would vote FDP if there were an election on Sunday.

Five percent is a vital electoral hurdle in the German system – less than that and a party cannot generally return MPs to the lower house of the German parliament, the Bundestag.

The FDP’s reinvigoration is apparently down to moderate successes in two recent state elections – in Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia, where the business-friendly party scored 8.2 and 8.6 percent respectively, despite miserable poll predictions.

But while this is good news for Merkel, her own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) dropped back a point to 33 percent – leaving the government coalition on a combined 38 percent, well behind a potential centre-left coalition made up of the Social Democratic Party and the Greens, who together boast 42 percent.

While there has been a clear swing towards the centre-left in Germany in recent weeks, especially with the triumph of Hannelore Kraft’s Social Democratic Party in North Rhine-Westphalia last week, that poll suggests a potential “red-green” coalition would not have enough seats to form a national government.

That’s because the Pirate Party would – if there were an election on Sunday – sail into the Bundestag, and split the parliament into six, rather than five, factions.

According to ARD, the Pirates are currently holding a steady course on 11 percent, and have become Germany’s fourth biggest political party in the past few months – ahead of both the FDP and the socialist Left party.

Germany’s next general election is scheduled for autumn 2013. The current political climate in Europe – particularly in France, which elected a Socialist president earlier this month – suggests that Merkel has every reason to fear for her post.

The Local/bk

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EU ministers urge unity after Germany’s energy ‘bazooka’

EU finance ministers on Monday pleaded for unity after Germany announced a €200 billion plan to help German households and businesses pay for high energy prices, amid accusations that the EU's biggest economy was acting alone.

EU ministers urge unity after Germany's energy 'bazooka'

Europe is struggling with historically high energy prices as it faces an early autumn cold snap and a coming winter almost certainly to be endured without crucial Russian gas supplies because of the war in Ukraine.

Many EU countries have announced national programmes to shield consumers from the high prices. But Germany went the furthest on Friday when it announced its mammoth plan, which will see help pouring to Germans for two years.

Arriving to talk with his eurozone counterparts, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner insisted the spending was “proportionate” to the size of Germany’s economy and said his goal was to use as little of the money as possible.

READ ALSO: Germany to spend €200 billion to cap soaring energy costs

But Germany’s largesse rankled several EU capitals, some of which feared their industries could take severe blows while Germany’s sits protected, deforming the EU’s single market.

Outgoing Italian prime minister Mario Draghi has slammed Berlin for its lack of solidarity and coordination with EU partners.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, without directly criticizing Berlin, called on partners to agree a common strategy against the price shock and for countries to refrain from going it alone.

“The more this strategy is coordinated, united, the better it is for all of us,” he said.

Risk to ‘European unity’

Others pointed to the unprecedented solidarity shown in the Covid-19 crisis in which the 27 EU nations, against all expectations, approved a jointly financed €750 billion recovery plan.

“Solidarity is not only on the German shoulders, I think this is something that we have to deliver at European level,” said EU economics affairs commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.

“We have very good examples from the previous crisis on how solidarity can react to a crisis and also reassure financial markets. I think that this is our goal,” he said.

While a Covid-style recovery plan is not in the cards for now, Le Maire said €200 billion in loans and €20 billion in aid should be devoted to REPowerEU, a programme to help countries break their dependence on Russian gas.

READ ALSO: Will Germany set a gas price cap – and how would it work?

Bruegel, a highly influential think tank in Brussels, called the German plan a spending “bazooka” that many EU countries were unable to match, creating a potential source of animosity.

“If the German gas price brake gives German business a much better chance to survive the crisis than, say, Italian business, economic divergences in the EU could be deepened, and European unity on Russia undermined,” it said in a blog.