Do the heads of the traffic light coalition still have time to take a look at the polls while they are working on the many crises? If you take a quick look at the struggle for gas supply, the fight against high energy prices and the vote on the third relief package, you will find little to encourage you there.
Satisfaction with the work of the government has fallen to its lowest since it began work in late 2021 in Germany’s biggest challenge in decades. Less than a third of Germans attest her good or very good work. The other two-thirds shake their heads at their performance.
The traffic light has already passed two billion-euro relief packages because of the high energy prices. But the political balance sheet is as follows: the Germans have not reacted with gratitude, nor has the large amount of money given them the feeling that the government has the crisis under control.
Demolition of trust in the middle of the river crossing
Figuratively speaking, one could speak of the loss of trust in the middle of the river crossing: Who should follow this political leadership in the torrential current when doubts about it are growing? Many factors contribute to them: the traffic light parties do not want to leave their ideological rifts, for example if the SPD wants to co-finance the new relief package from the climate and transformation fund, the Greens continue to oppose an extension of the Akw running times and the Liberals oppose new sources of income block for the state.
One factor, which has often been lamented and apparently can hardly be changed, is even more fatal: Olaf Scholz has acquired the ability in many top offices to precisely analyze complex political contexts and to find starting points and solutions. But he lacks the ability to give the Germans a feeling of closeness or at least of being noticed, as well as the talent for exciting and engaging speeches. But that too is a prerequisite for leadership – even an essential one.
Sometimes a look back helps: when the oil price shock hit Germany almost 50 years ago, the social-liberal coalition introduced the “Energy Security Act”. At the end of 1973, they issued a driving ban on four Sundays, which the FDP did not prevent. The drastic intervention made it possible for the Germans to experience the crisis in which their own economic model was going.
The traffic light has not attempted a similarly uncomfortable, strict restriction. There are reasons. Half a century after the driving bans, the Germans are both more critical and demanding. In other words, they put up with the state much less and at the same time demand a lot more from it.
Unfortunately, in the world crisis that triggered Russia’s war, this is a combination of expectations that can hardly be fulfilled any longer. Therefore the question is: Who will say crystal clear that this government and politics as a whole cannot muster the strength to compensate for many losses in income because that would blow up any budget?
A turning point speech for domestic politics – so far it has been missing
Olaf Scholz’s speech at the turn of the century was a wake-up call – especially for foreign and security policy. So far, however, the chancellor has failed to explain what internal tests the country he governs is facing, against which Vladimir Putin is using energy policy as a weapon.
It would be a surprise if the traffic light at the weekend with the third relief package could resolve all internal contradictions and distribute even more billions in such a way that the plight of those most in need is alleviated. Therefore, no one should count on this package to re-establish the bond of trust between the government and the governed. It will more likely stay that way: the work of persuasion must finally be tackled in the crisis.