Olaf Scholz’s strength is simply going on undeterred. He was already written off in the federal election campaign, but the others made mistakes – and he was suddenly seen as the anchor of stability with a clear course and a cool head. Even in his actions in the Ukraine war, the chancellor remains true to himself and his deliberations.
But the state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, often exaggerated as a small federal election, bring with them uncomfortable truths for the chancellor and his traffic light coalition of SPD, Greens and FDP. An SPD-led government is hardly conceivable with the result. And it won’t go on like this.
Firstly: The SPD’s spirit of optimism quickly evaporated, and there was no change in mood on the Rhine and Ruhr. NRW shows that the CDU is stabilizing. In addition, with her party and parliamentary group leader Friedrich Merz, she again has a clear center of strength and power. And the Greens are starting to fly to new heights.
On the other hand, in the eyes of many citizens, the work of some SPD ministers in the federal government is becoming a burden for the SPD. Scholz said of Christine Lambrecht that she would be a “very, very important defense minister”.
The fact that embarrassing indiscretions from her ministry can now be read in the “Spiegel” testifies to a broken relationship of trust. Scholz should jump over his shadow and admit his mistake with this key personality. Beyond considerations of parity, there would be a more suitable candidate in SPD leader Lars Klingbeil.
Second: The situation in the federal government remains fragile. What Scholz is missing, and that’s the problem in a three-way coalition with very unequal partners: he doesn’t care enough about the others. In the parliamentary groups, they often do not know what the government is up to, bills have to be withdrawn, although Scholz still manages to keep his SPD parliamentary group on course.
A Daniel Günther in Schleswig-Holstein is also so successful because he hugs his previous partners FDP and Greens. The farce when some FDP politicians left the defense committee prematurely during the chancellor hearing showed that Scholz no longer enjoys the unrestricted trust of his coalition.
Third: The FDP is very nervous and, after the NRW debacle, is increasingly asking itself the question: is this traffic light coalition paying off? The Liberals have now tried two forms of governance, and both have had little success. In NRW, people have dedicated themselves to silent governance, rarely complained – and with Education Minister Yvonne Gebauer, they drew a lot of criticism during the pandemic.
In the federal government, the FDP, as the smallest partner, is the loudest from the start. The party prevailed when the corona measures were lifted and prevented compulsory vaccination. In addition, the chancellor was driven in front of him when it came to arms deliveries.
But FDP boss and finance minister Christian Lindner had to quickly say goodbye to the claim that new borrowing should be cut back sharply. And in view of the media presence and the poll high of the Greens, Lindner has to ask himself whether the right departments have been chosen. The FDP will now try to distinguish itself even more. And so the centrifugal forces for the chancellor and his coalition will continue to increase.