At its hybrid special party congress, the SPD is the first of the three traffic light parties to clear the way for the formation of a government. 99 percent of the delegates vote for the alliance with the Greens and Liberals in the federal government. The delegates nevertheless expressed criticism.
The Social Democrats want to form a federal government led by Olaf Scholz with the FDP and the Greens. At a special party conference of the SPD, the coalition agreement negotiated between the three parties met with widespread approval. Of the 608 voting delegates, 598 voted for the contract, making up around 99 percent. Seven delegates voted against the contract, three abstained.
Previously, among others, Scholz had advertised the new alliance with verve. Because of the pandemic, the party conference took place hybrid: Only a small proportion of the delegates came together in the Willy-Brandt-Haus in Berlin, while the rest took part digitally. Even if delegates expressed criticism, the evaluation of the coalition agreement by the delegates was almost exuberant.
“We now have the chance: A departure can take place for Germany,” said Scholz in his enthusiastic speech. The SPD, FDP and the Greens are united by a belief in progress. “The future is being made,” said Scholz. “It doesn’t just happen.” Scholz compared the coming federal government with the social-liberal government under Willy Brandt in 1969. “We should succeed again in such a departure,” said Scholz.
“We shine behind our masks”
“The Social Democratic Party has not appointed the Chancellor that often,” recalled Scholz. “No, that cannot be taken for granted: the Social Democrats will appoint the next Chancellor of the republic and that is our joint work.” The speech was greeted with prolonged applause. “We make history with the traffic light”, campaigned party leader Saskia Esken in her speech for the contract. “We will show what social justice means in the 21st century”, announced Esken and appealed that the SPD had to “ensure more decency in the labor market” as part of government responsibility.
The outgoing co-chairman Norbert Walter-Borjans spoke of a “new chapter in the history of the Federal Republic”. Walter-Borjans and his designated successor as party chairman, Secretary General Lars Klingbeil, recalled the many doubts that had existed a year ago as to why the SPD, which had been rejected in the polls, was even running a candidate for chancellor. “There was a whole series of malice, ridicule and know-it-all,” said Walter-Borjans. Klingbeil said: “I still remember how many journalists put away the pads and pens in background discussions when I said that Olaf Scholz was going to be Chancellor.”
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig said: “We are shining behind our masks.” Under Scholz’s leadership, the SPD negotiated a very good coalition agreement. It enables “Olaf Scholz as climate chancellor,” said Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, whose portfolio will be transferred to the Green Party, Steffi Lemke. Schulze is still traded for a cabinet position in the traffic light.
Jusos agree, but express criticism
The chairwoman of the youth party organization Jusos, Jessica Rosenthal, campaigned for approval of the coalition agreement. “This is a departure that we as young people have been waiting for so long,” said the 29-year-old. “I hope the FDP will come to one or the other conclusion,” said Rosenthal, who was newly elected to the Bundestag, with a view to the lack of tax redistribution, which failed because of the liberals’ veto. “There definitely has to be a lot more.” Her newly elected co-chairman, Birkan Görer, criticized the fact that the coalition agreement did not provide for a moratorium on rent, and that tenants in Berlin, for example, needed “a respite”. In addition, Görer called for the planned citizens’ allowance, which is to replace the basic security according to Hartz IV, to be free of sanctions.
The designated SPD general secretary and former Juso chairman Kevin Kühnert asked “for approval of the coalition agreement and for appropriate happiness on this beautiful day today”. At the same time he appealed: “What I would like to ask us to do at this point is to remain hungry as a party.” Using the example of the building and living negotiation group, in which Kühnert had negotiated, the Berlin member of the Bundestag explained that the coalition agreement also fell short of some of the SPD’s wishes. “There are also a few things that it would not have needed for us,” he said of contract clauses, according to which the misuse of personal use reports by landlords and the misappropriation of rental apartments should only be checked for the time being.
The FDP and the Greens decide until Monday
The subject of renting, the planned acquisition of armed drones for the German armed forces and the unsettled increase in the basic security were the most frequently mentioned points of criticism, but they remained manageable overall. The delegates particularly praised the climate and socio-political traffic light projects. Above all, the FDP was skeptical, which the delegates believed had prevented socio-political projects. The Greens, on the other hand, were not part of the debate at all.
Katja Pähle, chairwoman of the SPD parliamentary group in Saxony-Anhalt, negotiated the issue of health with the FDP and the Greens together with Karl Lauterbach for the SPD. She campaigned for Lauterbach to get the post of Federal Minister of Health and countered a criticism of Lauterbach that was repeatedly expressed in the party: “Honestly: Anyone who thinks that this man is not able to work in a team has no idea.”
The FDP wants to vote on the coalition agreement on Sunday. The Greens will announce the result of their ballot on Monday. On the same day, the SPD wants to present its ministerial team. The coalition agreement will then be signed on Tuesday and Scholz will be elected Chancellor on Wednesday. The Executive Chancellor Angela Merkel was adopted with a big tattoo on Thursday.