Germany’s grand coalition, or GroKo as it has been dubbed, had little cause to celebrate its 100 days in office on 21 June. Instead, it came under sharp criticism from all sides.
Industries, trade unions, opposition parties, municipalities, all of them accuse the ruling CDU/CSU and SPD of taking no action, setting false priorities and imposing a self-blockade on the asylum policy.
To understand the critics – and the underlying irony of the current political situation in Germany right now – one needs to do a bit of time travelling.
On 14 March 2018, while signing the coalition agreement in Berlin, the leaders of the CDU, CSU and SPD stressed they had already lost a lot of time due to the longest period of government formation ever in Germany – exactly 171 days after the elections were held on 24 September 2017.
They said they wanted to act fast to implement the reforms Germany needed.
Chancellor and CDU leader Angela Merkel and Vice Chancellor and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) also emphasised the importance of reforms at the EU level.
Now that the euro crisis is over, it is time to bring the EU forward, Merkel said at the time, referring to the completion of the Banking and Capital Markets Union, the protection of the external borders and the design of a new form of development policy. To further develop the EU is “the most important national concern”, added Scholz.
Both Merkel and Scholz, as well as Interior minister and CSU leader Horst Seehofer, insisted the coalition will stay in power for the entire legislative period until 2021.
And 100 days later?
“We had the longest formation of a government ever in the country, chances are good we will get the shortest terms in office ever,” said Spiegel political correspondent Ralf Neukirch in a video analysis.
Thomas Sigmund, the Berlin bureau chief for Germany’s economic daily Handelsblatt, wrote a column entitled “100 days GroKo, 100 days gruesomeness”.
“The voters had no great expectations from the grand coalition. And yet they are disappointed. Everyone’s nerves are on edge – even the Chancellor’s,” he wrote.
The powerful Federation of German Industries (BDI) also demanded more action from the current government.
“The German industrial sector expects the government to be and remain an anchor of stability for the EU. This applies both to the blazing trade conflict with the US, but also to the European migration policy and the urgently needed further development of the eurozone,» German weekly Stern quoted the President of the BDI Dieter Kempf as saying.
Reiner Hoffmann, chairman of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB), urged the government to deliver on real issues, which affect people’s daily lives, stressing that their everyday life differs from that of the political Berlin.
“People have to deal with no affordable housing, the traffic infrastructure is grotesque, that the situation in our schools is sometimes catastrophic. These are issues that need to be tackled,” he said in the same publication.
He conceded that the Union-SPD coalition did make some progress on social issues but said it wasn’t enough.
Only SPD chairman Andrea Nahles was satisfied with the work of her party: “For 100 days now, the SPD has been implementing the coalition agreement step by step. Because for us it is mission and guideline,” she said.
And matters would be even more complicated if new elections were held next Sunday. According to the latest poll, the GroKo would no longer have a majority. The CDU and CSU together would get 30% of the vote, while the SPD would come in at 16% – and far-right AfD at 15.5%.
The Inside Track
By Freya Kirk
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Views are the author’s