Traffic light submits, Merz transforms: SPD can save their displeasure with the CDU leader

The mood between the Union leadership and the traffic light parties is frosty. SPD top representatives repeatedly warn opposition leader Merz about state political responsibility. But instead of distracting from this, this appeal throws a spotlight on one’s own mistakes.

The SPD chairman Lars Klingbeil and CDU leader Friedrich Merz will probably no longer be friends in this life. Long before the victory of the Social Democrats in the federal election, Klingbeil enjoyed teasing Merz as a possible CDU chairman and even candidate for chancellor as a model from the day before yesterday. The fact that the Sauerland rose to become the leader of the opposition after the election as head of the CDU and Union faction was confidently seen as a good sign in the Willy Brandt House. The social democrats did not have much confidence in the oh so yesterday’s Merz as the most important opponent in their victory frenzy. Nor that he would be quick to familiarize the devastated Conservatives with their new opposition role. But the opposite is the case, and the recurring indignation of Klingbeil and Co about Merz can also be explained by his sovereign handling of his new function.

On Thursday it was time again for Klingbeil Merz to remind the Bundestag of his state-political responsibility when it comes to a common position on the Ukraine war. Chancellor Olaf Scholz already recalled this when it came to the urgently needed approval of the Union for the planned special fund for the Bundeswehr. Just like Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, when the Union was supposed to save compulsory vaccination, for which the traffic light lacked its own majority. Each of these three times, the governing party maneuvered itself into dependence on the Union and then accused them of being irresponsible when the CDU and CSU did not follow or tied their votes to their own substantive demands.

Union is not just about party tactics

The traffic light interpretation that Merz is only concerned with party tactical games is not out of thin air. In three cases alone, the governing coalition provided the opposition leader with templates, which he only had to use, due to his own strategic weaknesses or a lack of unity. But that doesn’t mean that the Union acted contrary to its own beliefs, just to present the SPD, Greens and FDP. Even when it came to compulsory vaccination, Christian Democrats and Christian Socialists were anything but alone in the Bundestag with their doubts.

The fact that the Union insists on an increase in the defense budget independent of this special fund for its approval of an amendment to the Basic Law, so that the traffic light can put 100 billion euros into Germany’s security, corresponds to the party line. She was already making the demand before Scholz announced the special fund in response to Russia’s war of aggression. In this speech, not only the listeners in the CDU / CSU parliamentary group heard that Scholz wanted to put the money into the Bundeswehr alone. He spoke literally of a “special fund ‘Bundeswehr'”. The fact that, under pressure from the SPD and the Greens, the money should now also flow into other security policy expenditures is a concession from Scholz to his own people – after he had become dependent on the Union with the proposal that had not been discussed outside of the cabinet.

Merz doesn’t have to make it difficult for himself like Scholz

Merz’s threat that even in the event of an agreement, his parliamentary group would only deliver as many yes votes as the traffic light needs to achieve the two-thirds majority is actually a controversial maneuver. Does the Union really want to risk the special fund failing and the Bundeswehr getting nothing because the traffic light also wants to put a small part of the sum into cyber security and crisis prevention? Probably not, and it probably won’t happen that way. But until an agreement is reached, Merz takes the opportunity to further disclose the content-related friction within the government alliance and to drive the traffic light in front of him. The Union has every right to keep an eye on the upcoming state elections. After all, the SPD in North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein is promoting Scholz’s Ukraine policy.

Merz also succeeded in linking political convictions with party tactical opportunities in the debate about the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine. With its own application, which formulated corresponding demands on the federal government, the Union forced the government factions to position themselves on the course of their lavish chancellor – and in the end got what they think is right: a Germany that is committed to resolute and robust support professed to Ukraine. The SPD may be annoyed that Merz is acting from the simpler position of opposition leader than from the position of one who actually bears heavy responsibility in these weeks. But it’s not Merz’s job to play secondary chancellor. The governing party does not need to get angry about this privilege of the electoral loser. She should rather use her energy to ask why she keeps putting templates in front of Merz’s foot, which even a supposedly old man easily transforms.

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