SPD and Scholz: The countdown for the Chancellor has begun

SPD and Scholz: The countdown for the Chancellor has begun
SPD and Scholz: The countdown for the Chancellor has begun

The SPD is pulling itself together, but it is obvious: it finally wants to see results from the Chancellor. The budget negotiations are entering the decisive phase.

Then Olaf Scholz talks about this one big task that is “imminent” – even though it has been paralyzing the traffic light coalition for weeks and months, and even threatens to tear it apart. But the Chancellor seems to see it a little differently.

The budget talks were very collegial, he said in his government statement on Wednesday, to loud laughter from the opposition. They were entirely fact-oriented. And since the negotiations were confidential, “you are essentially left to guess.” Ha!

But this obviously also applies to his own SPD faction, whose clapping at this point seems more like a matter of duty.

The group wants something tangible

The Chancellor is not taking the parliamentary group with him, is not communicating enough, and is hardly providing any insight into his budget negotiations with Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck and Finance Minister Christian Linder – this impression has been weighing on the minds of some comrades for quite some time. What does the Chancellor want, what is his plan?

First of all: gain time. The government’s draft budget is expected to be ready in mid-July instead of July 3. As collegial as the negotiations may be, they are clearly not easy. But they are at least confidential enough that even Rolf Mützenich, the SPD parliamentary group leader, apparently found out about the postponement indirectly.

The federal government would be well advised to “share clear political decisions with us next week,” warned Mützenich before the parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday. He is Scholz’s most important man, after all he is the one who gets him his majorities, but Mützenich also seems to be gradually running out of patience. He sees it as his job to give the chancellor the space to make prudent decisions. Now he wants to have something concrete on the budget before parliament goes on summer vacation.

“I will find suitable ways to do this,” said Mützenich, “so that the parliamentary group can deal with this in a professional and calm manner.”

Internally, Mützenich repeated his expectations on Tuesday, this time in the presence of the Chancellor. The Chancellor congratulated him on his birthday and called him a “special person”. Participants in the parliamentary group meeting reported that things were quiet – at least when you consider the question at hand – the continued existence of the government. Because if the budget doesn’t work out, then the traffic light coalition will probably be over too.

This may also have been a reason for Mützenich’s warning to Scholz: keep calm in your own house. In the last meeting, Scholz was openly criticized, and many comments were made public. Mützenich has now made it clear: the budget will take a little while longer, but we don’t need to discuss it again. As long as there is an announcement next week about where we are headed. The mood was more peaceful, more relaxed than last time. “Life isn’t a bed of roses and Olaf isn’t Wendy,” said Claudia Moll, member of the Bundestag from North Rhine-Westphalia. Apparently an allusion to the fictional and heroic horse adventures of the rider Wendy. The message: stay positive!

Is the SPD maneuver really smart?

It is obvious that the SPD has long been expecting the worst. The left wing of the “Forum DL21” wants to prevent budget cuts through a member petition, and the three very different factions stated in a joint statement that they expect special investments and another exception to the debt brake.

So these are all things that cannot be done with the liberal coalition partner. The fact that the three factions would “solidly support” their chancellor, but in fact would give him guard rails, is likely to make a compromise more difficult. So is this maneuver really smart? And what would the SPD faction actually do if there were no exception to the debt brake?

Scholz himself said nothing about a possible emergency. “There must be no cuts in social justice,” he stressed in his government statement, whether in pensions or health. That was a priority for his government. It was also probably a message to his party. The government’s draft budget would be ready “in July,” Scholz assured.

The postponement will not lead to any specific disruptions in parliamentary operations, says Katja Mast. According to the SPD parliamentary group manager, budget discussions in the Bundestag could begin in September and a decision could be made in November – as is the usual path to a budget.

But Mast also repeated on Wednesday morning that the parliamentary group expects a “political statement” in the coming week on issues such as future investments and possible savings. The Chancellor would certainly have enough opportunities to do so.

The next SPD parliamentary group meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, and Scholz will be questioned on the government in the Bundestag on Wednesday. There will also be a special meeting of the parliamentary group as soon as the government has agreed on a draft budget.

“A budget must provide orientation and clarity,” demands SPD budget politician Andreas Schwarz. People and the German economy expect signals from politics that can be read from a budget. “The 2025 budget is an opportunity for the traffic light coalition to show that it has the will and the strength to shape the future courageously,” Schwarz told the star.

Can the Chancellor deliver?

Source: Stern

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