German Lessons

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David and Helen are joined by Politico’s chief Europe correspondent Matthew Karnitschnig to explore the consequences of the German elections. Who were the real winners and losers? Are there lessons for centre-left parties in other countries, including the Labour Party in Britain? And what are the choices facing Germany as it decides on its place in an increasingly unstable world? Plus we ask whether this was a Covid election. If not, why not?


Talking Points:


What was surprising about the German elections?

  • To expect something is different from seeing it actually happen.

Do campaigns make a difference to election outcomes?

  • In this case, it looks like it did. It was pretty clear that Laschet was a poor candidate.
  • Laschet’s response to the floods was a turning point.

Scholz prevailed because of his experience—he isn’t perceived as a change candidate.

  • The SPD base has moved to the left, but Scholz is more of a centrist.
  • The CDU, on the other hand, was much less stable.

Most German voters wanted change, and yet it is the continuity Merkel candidate who is most likely to become the next chancellor.

  • This reflects grand coalition politics. Merkel pushed the Christian Democrats into the space of the Social Democrats.
  • But the initiative to form this government is coming from the change parties: the Greens and the FDP.

The parties seem to believe that their differences are bridgeable.

  • The two smaller parties are more popular among younger people.
  • Change might be driven from below.
  • The larger party only has about 26 percent; this gives the other parties more leverage.
  • What kind of change would be embraced by both the FDP and the Greens?

Mentioned in this Episode:

Further Learning:

Hear more of Matthew on Politico's podcast on European politics, EU Confidential, which he hosts.


And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking



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