German Energy Politics Remain Challenging After Federal Election Results 2013

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) were the biggest winners in Sunday’s federal election taking 41.5% of the vote, while the largest opposition party, the Social Democrats (SPD), garnered 25.7%. Yet the CDU/CSU missed the absolute majority and lost their coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) who missed the 5% minimum threshold for the Bundestag. With Social Democrats, Greens and Left having a mathematical majority, we presently have limited visibility as to where the German Energiewende will turn in the next four years.

According to the preliminary election results the CDU/CSU block reached 41.5% of the votes (CDU: 34.1; CSU: 7.4%). The Green Party, the SPD’s favoured ally, got 8.4%. Reaching 34.1 % together, SPD and Greens clearly missed their goal to form a new government. The Left Party (Die Linke) took 8.6% of the vote.

Of the 630 seats in the Bundestag the CDU/CSU captured 311, the SPD 192, the Left 64 and the Greens 63. A red-red-green coalition (named after the party colours) would be possible, given the fact that the three parties took 319 of seats in the Bundestag. Leading SPD members, including the candidate for chancellorship Peer Steinbrück, however, dismissed a coalition with The Left, prior to the election and in interviews immediately after the elections.

A likely course is that Mrs Merkel is trying to broker a grand coalition with the SPD, her partner during the 2005 to 2009 term. Regarding conformity between the CDU/CSU and the SPD in energy policy matters, please see our series of blog posts on the energy positions of the different parties. However, the SPD, who lost heavily in the 2009 election following the first grand coalition, seems cautious about a new grand coalition. There was “no automatism” for a grand coalition SPD, secretary general Andrea Nahles said and her party colleague Olaf Scholz, mayor of Hamburg, added the SPD was rather sceptical of a grand coalition.

A coalition of the CDU/CSU with the Green Party would also be an option. However, party programmes are farther apart with regard to energy policy matters, in particular concerning a reform of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) (for more information please see in particular the party profiles part 1 and 2 under related posts). Renate Künast, leader of the parliamentary group of the Greens, said she thought a coalition with the CDU/CSU was highly unlikely, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes.

Another aspect to keep in mind is the Federal Council majority question, in particular in connection with the outcome of yesterday’s state elections in Hesse.  Hesse has so far been governed by a CDU/FDP coalition, but yesterday’s state elections in Hesse also did not lead to an obvious new state government.

So far, out of the 69 votes in the Bundesrat, 36 votes are in the red/green camp (with 4 from red/red Brandenburg), 15 CDU/CSU/FDP (5 of those from Hesse), 18 grand coalitions. It is presently unclear where the 5 votes from yesterday’s state elections in Hesse will end up. The Bundesrat majority figure is important due to the legislative procedure in particular for so-called objection laws (Einspruchsgesetze): If the objection is adopted by the majority of the votes of the Bundesrat, it may be rejected by a decision of the majority of the Members of the Bundestag (Art. 77(4)(1) Basic Law). If the Bundesrat adopted the objection by a majority of at least two thirds of its votes, its rejection by the Bundestag shall require a two-thirds majority in the Bundestag, including at least a majority of the Members of the Bundestag (Art. 77(4)(2) Basic Law). This means that the SPD already has a very strong role in the Bundesrat, and the Hessen result is likely to make it even stronger, strengthening the SPD’s position in coalition negotiations.

Forming a government may therefore take Mrs Merkel some time. Consequently, it is likely to take some time before new decisions for the course of the Energiewende will be taken.. German EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger once again called for a speedy reform of the Renewable Energy Source Act (EEG), saying the rising electricity prices was not sustainable over the long term. Besides, he demanded that grid were expanded beyond the German borders, creating a European grid.

Source: Official information on Federal Election of 22 September 2013 

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