Six weeks after the Sept. 26 federal elections, a new coalition government was formed in Germany headed by Olaf Scholz. The “traffic light” (Ampel) coalition – referring to the party colors of its partners the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens, and Liberals (FDP) – will have a full and busy program.
Newly elected Chancellor Scholz has been engaged in front-line politics in Germany for more than 20 years and is well known to the public. Scholz served as general secretary of the Social Democrats, labor minister, and finally as both then-Chancellor Angela Merkel's deputy and finance minister.
Scholz’ campaign strategy
Scholz’s election as chancellor came as a surprise to the public. In polls up to three months before the election, his party polled at 12-15%, but he won the election as the top party with 26% of the vote. As well as the mistakes of his opponents, the campaign strategy and rhetoric he applied were undoubtedly effective in this success. Scholz's strategy was based on two foundations. First, it formed the perception in society that he would be a continuation of Merkel. Secondly, he stressed human dignity (respect) against the imbalances caused by economic and social problems in Western societies in recent years, promising to raise the minimum wage, stabilize the pension system, and build 400,000 houses a year to offset rising housing prices in Germany.
The first strategy implemented by Scholz was extremely important from the point of view of German sociology. Because German society, which weathered a lot of turbulence in the 20th century, such as the two world wars and the unification of the two Germanies, has a structure that today is mostly wary of radical changes. From this point of view, Scholz's emphasis on the continuation of Merkel is extremely consistent. In fact, Merkel, who served as chancellor for 16 years, is seen as an element of stability in German society.
As someone who had the opportunity to get to know Scholz closely, I can safely say that he is a very well-educated person in addition to his government experience. The most basic impression I have about the new chancellor is that Scholz's field of interests spans a wide range of fields including history, economics, sociology, and current affairs. Everyone who knows Scholz closely will confirm that he closely observes social trends and wants to do policies in line with this. As a matter of fact, Scholz was one of the first politicians in Germany to emphasize that Germany has become an immigrant society and one of the rare politicians who paved the way for immigrants. A few years ago, a journalist asked: "Do you read books and what kind?" He answered: “Yes, I’m reading more books about how highly industrialized countries such as Germany and the US, which failed to demonstrate development performance in the face of the 2007 world economic crisis, can get out of this development trap.” Scholz also said in the same interview that he invited and consulted with authors he liked about such issues.
Judging by the 178-page protocol of the coalition headed by Scholz, we can break down the actions envisaged for the next four years under three main headings.
The first goal of the government is to establish social justice in society. From this point of view, raising the minimum wage, making the pension system sustainable, and building 400,000 new housing units per year to solve the housing problem in the country are steps that will be taken in this context.
Another area of action targeted by the government will be energy and the environment. In this context, the government aims to increase the renewable energy rate, which corresponds to 45% of the energy consumed in Germany, to 80% in 2030. For this purpose, it is expected to make very serious investments in wind, solar, and other renewable energies. The amount of investments that the public and private sectors will make for this business is expected to reach £900 billion ($1.01 trillion). In addition, to reduce emissions, it plans to close nuclear power plants in 2022, as previously agreed, and coal power plants in 2030. Furthermore, it plans to launch 15 million electric vehicles on the market by October 2030. However, the government, with this transformation towards green energy, not only aims to convert energy consumption in Germany into renewable energy but also wants to translate the skills that Germany will gain in the production of environmental technologies into an export item.
Another area that the government wants to transform is digitalization – one of the most-discussed issues in Germany in recent years. One of the partner parties of the government, the FDP, put the issue of digitalization at the center of its campaign platform. Germany knows that it is lagging behind China and the US in digitalization and artificial intelligence (AI). So during the Merkel government, a digitalization master plan was announced by the Economy Ministry. In this context, the number of AI chairs at German universities was tripled from 50 to 151. Moreover, the state has also developed different incentive packages for digitalization projects. The Scholz government also wants to accelerate transformation in this area by creating a digitalization ministry and at least reach the same level as the US and China. In addition, it also wants to implement different infrastructure projects that will support digitalization.
The foreign policy of the new government will not be very different from its predecessors. Apart from the main topics such as special relations with France, deepening the EU integration process, and preserving transatlantic relations, the attitude towards Russia and China has not been fully clarified during the Merkel era, but it is not very easy to predict what will happen during the Scholz era at this stage. It can be predicted that this will also be shaped by the context of events. In addition, we can think that relations with Turkey will not be very different from the policies implemented by Merkel in Turkey after 2018. Of course, the fact that the new foreign minister is from the Greens may keep Germany's criticisms of Turkey on various issues high. But as a result, no serious transformation in relations with Turkey is expected.
Therefore, considering that the main topic of the coalition protocol of the three parties is "To Be Brave to Move Forward Further" (Mehr Fortschritt Wagen), we will wait and see how brave they will be at critical moments, no matter how far the program and team structure of the Scholz government are available to move forward.