The German grand coalition looks unlikely to survive the change of guard in the leadership of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) on Saturday.
The two leaders fielded by the left-wing of the party secured a decisive victory over the so-called realist or centrist wing. Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken secured a 53% share of the 426,000 party-membership votes. Their opponents, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and Klara Geywitz, narrowly lost with a 45% share of the vote.
The result leaves the governments’ junior coalition partner deeply divided. The entire leadership of the party is on the losing side, leaving the SPD in the position the British Labour Party was left after the election of Jeremy Corbyn.
Many members have left the government while others want to renegotiate the terms of the coalition. They are calling for the unconditional funding of the unemployed – currently only 2,7% of the workforce – and a hike of the minimum wage to at least €12 and hour. They also want to see a wealth tax on the super-rich and a stronger climate policy package reflective of the emergency.
But a renegotiation is not on the cards for the CDU, who are also divided among those sticking to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centrist legacy and those who demand a conservative turn. Merkel cannot weigh decisively on the debate, as it is known that she will be withdrawing from politics after 14 years in office.
The CDU knows it has a strong negotiating hand. The SPD is currently polling at around 15%. At the same time, polls are showing the Greens drawing votes from SPD, the CDU, as well as the Liberals.
A CDU-led minority government may yet try to remain in office through Germany’s EU Council Presidency in 2020 but it would be unlikely to survive further than that.