Germany’s New Governing Coalition 

Written by: Cameron Yonan

Germany’s new government coalition is facing its first major hurdle: The Omicron COVID-19 variant. Will Germany survive another lockdown, or are mandatory vaccines the answer? The incoming government coalition will have to decide a course of action as COVID-19 cases skyrocket in Germany, mainly credited to the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant. The incoming government is the result of 16 years of CDU/CSU dominance in Germany. The September 2021 Federal Election signaled an era of change in German politics, with many Germans striving for something different after Angela Merkel. Merkel was best known for her methodical thinking, which resulted in delayed action by her government. The 2021 Bundestag is younger and more partisan than ever, joining the global trend of increasingly divided politics. Nyke Slawik is one of the two trans women elected to the Bundestag. The election of Slawik and other trans people creates a historic Bundestag, being more representative than ever before. 

The September election was historic, especially in regards to coalition building. Germany has mainly had two-party governments since the inception of its democratic elections under the Basic Law system. A coalition government is formed in the Bundestag to reach a parliamentary majority, which is necessary for most legislative actions. 

Party descriptions

Past Coalitions 

SPD & Green Party (1998-2005)

CDU/CSU & SPD (2005-2009)

CDU/CSU & FDP (2009-2013)

CDU/CSU & SPD (2013-2017) 

CDU/CSU & SPD (2017-2021)

Current Coalition 

SPD & FDP & Greens (2021-Present) 

The new coalition is referred to as the ‘stoplight’ coalition because of the colors of the parties (red, yellow and green respectively). This is relatively historic because of the six party system in Germany, a shift away from the two big tent parties of the SPD and the CDU/CSU. In the recent past, the governing coalitions have been mainly two-parties, like the recent Grand Coalition between the SPD and the CDU/CSU. Notably, the CDU/CSU is not in this coalition, making the current coalition center-left. This is notable since the nation has been governed by center-right coalitions under Merkel for 16 years.

Since the SPD has the clearest mandate to lead, capturing 25.7 percent of the vote in the September election, the new Chancellor of Germany is Olaf Scholz. Traditionally, the party with the most votes receives the Chancellorship, with the other coalition members receiving cabinet positions or other prominent government roles. The Chancellor is formally elected by the members of the Bundestag, but since the SPD, FDP and Greens created a coalition, they have guaranteed the election of Schultz. 

Olaf Scholz was the Vice-Chancellor and Finance Minister under former chancellor Angela Merkel from 2017 to 2021, making Scholz a frontrunner for Chancellor, with the SPD marketing him as “Merkel’s successor.” Scholz represents the conservative wing of the SPD and is not as left-leaning as other members of the SPD. Scholz’s background is rather impressive, as he was a SPD secretary-general, federal labor minister, state interior minister and governing mayor of Hamburg before becoming finance minister. 

Christian Lindner was the FDP’s chancellor candidate, who has been leading the FDP since 2013. Lindner has also been a member of the Bundestag. Lindner was very vocal about wanting the highly coveted and powerful position of Finance Minister. As of December 1, he has successfully secured that position. 

Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck are co-leaders of the Green party—however, Baerbock was the Green’s chancellor candidate. Baerbock is the second woman to ever be nominated for chancellor, following Merkel who was the first. Baerbock and Habeck campaigned heavily on matters relating to climate and foreign policy. 

The Chancellor’s cabinet includes all of Germany’s ministries.  Federal Ministers, those who serve on the Chancellor’s cabinet, can receive a portfolio which refers to a ministry area of responsibility. Ministry areas cover a variety of affairs, from financial matters to nuclear safety policies.

The proposed cabinet assignments are as follows

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (former Finance Minister under Merkel) 

Federal Minister of Finance: Christian Lindner (Equivalent to the US Secretary of Treasury) 

Foreign Affairs: Annalena Baerbock (Equivalent to the US Secretary of State)

Economy: Outgoing Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (Equivalent to the US Secretary of Commerce) 

Interior: Outgoing Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (includes immigration policy) (Equivalent to the US Secretary of Interior) 

Science and Education: Klara Geywitz (Equivalent to Presidential Science Advisor) 

Economic Cooperation and Development: Baerbel Kofler (Equivalent to the US Secretary of Treasury) 

Labor: Hubertus Heil (Equivalent to the US Secretary of Labor)

Climate: Greens Co-Leader Robert Habeck (Equivalent to EPA Director) 

This coalition was formed rather quickly, as the negotiations were hoped to be finished before the Christmas holiday. In a coalition, each of the member parties has varying agendas they wish to pursue, especially in regard to rising COVID-19 and fiscal policy concerns. Some coalition agreements come together to push forward a rather progressive agenda, like the legalization of marijuana. Germany has recently put restrictions on the unvaccinated, in an attempt to break the fourth wave of COVID. Germany approaches a new progressive era with this coalition, and only the future will tell how they succeed.