5: What issues characterize the election in Germany?
- Germany’s informal motto: Stability and predictability
In modern times, the German people have clearly stated that they want political stability and predictability. These desires must be seen in the light of the country’s history, which in the first half of the last century was marked by two world wars, inflation and the atrocities of Nazism.
According to TOP-ENGINEERING-SCHOOLS, the country’s governments have always been formed on the basis of absolute parliamentary majorities. This means that the government has the support of more than half of the representatives in parliament. This has not always been the case in Norway. The latest example of this is Erna Solberg’s last government where the Conservatives, the Liberals and the Christian Democrats formed a minority government. In other words, the governments of Germany have been very secure and capable of governing.
Over the last 16 years, one and the same person has led all German governments: Angela Merkel from the CDU. She has been re-elected three times since she was elected Chancellor in 2005.
Now she is not running for re-election, and it creates unrest among voters who are otherwise happy in continuity. Who will lead Germany forward?
- The Merkel era is coming to an end – who will lead the country forward?
The question of who will lead the government is often referred to as the “chancellor question”. It is normal for the chancellor to come from the largest party in a governing coalition. The SPD, the CDU and the Greens are currently Germany’s three largest parties, and are therefore each running for chancellor ahead of the election. It is new this year, because previously there have only been two candidates – one from the Union and one from the SPD.
The Chancellor’s issue has become an important election campaign issue in itself in this election campaign. First-time voters have grown up in a country where Angela Merkel has always been chancellor. That will change after the election. The fact that it has already been decided that there will be a new chancellor also makes many voters think anew.
More voters than before think more about which candidate they want, than which party they identify with. In other words, it is likely that many voters will vote for a different party than they did in the previous election.
Even the CDU, which is considered to have the most loyal voters, has experienced a significant voter flight. It must be seen in connection with a certain disappointment with the party’s new candidate, Armin Laschet.
Olaf Scholz is a candidate for the SPD. He is the current finance minister in Merkel’s government and is currently most liked in opinion polls.
Annalena Baerbock is a candidate for the Greens.
- The temperature is rising in the climate and environmental issue
As in so many other European countries, the climate issue has become a dominant political issue. In national opinion polls in Germany, climate and the environment are highlighted as Germany’s biggest challenge. It has also been important in previous elections, but in the wake of a climate lawsuit reaching the German legal system, it has become even more relevant. The ruling said that the freedoms and fundamental rights of future generations were narrowed as a result of the level of ambition for the climate targets set by the government in 2019. This forced the German government to set more ambitious targets for emission cuts in the years to come.
In general, it can be said that the climate and environmental issue is mainly about energy supply and transport. Germany’s energy supply has undergone major changes in recent years. The decisions to gradually phase out nuclear power and coal have led to a large share of the German energy supply having to be replaced with new energy sources.
Up to half of Germany’s energy supply still comes from energy sources to be phased out, and there will therefore be a race between the parties to convince voters that their plan is the right one to make it happen.
In transport, car policy dominates in Germany. The country is known for its large car industry, and has traditionally pursued a car-friendly transport policy. Car policy has now seriously become part of the climate issue and one can draw parallels to many of the same issues we find in the Norwegian election campaign: it is often about expanding the railway as a travel alternative to the car, about fuel prices and how to get more electric cars on the roads.
These are difficult political issues in Germany. More than 800,000 people work in the car industry, and it is of great importance for both employment and economic prosperity in the country.
We recognize this challenge from our own domestic balance between environmental considerations and dependence on the oil and gas industry.
- Political handling of the pandemic
The pandemic has also posed major challenges to the German economy. Prolonged shutdowns of society particularly affected many in the private business sector, but the public sector was also put to the test. The demand for better working conditions and payment for nurses received even broader support than before.
The government was sharply criticized for not equipping schools with better air filters and for not taking over what lockdown and homeschooling meant for the mental health of young people and children. The logistics around vaccination and pandemic control have also been important election campaign topics.
6: Why does the election in Germany play a role for Norway?
The EU is Norway’s most important trading partner. In 2020, Norway exported goods worth NOK 602 billion to EU countries. This accounts for almost 80 per cent of everything Norway exports. Oil and gas exports are a significant proportion of this.
Since Germany is one of the most important and strongest countries in the EU, the German political leadership largely influences European environmental policy. The EU’s approach to oil and gas is therefore absolutely crucial for employment and economic prosperity in Norway in the short term.
In recent years, Germany’s footprint in shaping European climate policy has become increasingly clear. German skepticism about nuclear power and coal is reflected in the European Green Deal – part of the EU’s strategy towards becoming a zero-emission society in 2055.
There is now tension about whether gas can be the next fossil energy source that one wants to phase out. The Green Party advocates this, and it can of course have major consequences for Norway. In this way, the election in Germany – and especially whether the Greens get a place in a new German government – plays a very important role for Norway as an oil and gas exporter.
If the EU stops demanding Norwegian gas, it could have as great consequences for Norwegian climate policy as the actual parliamentary elections in Norway.