German coalition parties laden down with political problems and obvious ideological differences

Poll suggests German voters view chancellor Olaf Scholz more as a problem than a solution, with two-thirds convinced he is doing a poor job as German leader

Halfway through its term almost three-quarters of Germans have had enough of their “traffic light” coalition experiment – in particular their chancellor.

That is the sobering poll news as Berlin’s ruling cabinet heads off for an overnight “conclave”, laden down with unsolved political problems and increasingly obvious ideological differences.

Above all Monday’s YouGov survey for the DPA news agency suggests German voters view chancellor Olaf Scholz more as a problem than a solution, with two-thirds convinced he is doing a poor job in his first term as German leader.

Of the 1,300 people quizzed just 23 per cent are happy his government is tackling the country’s most urgent problems. And almost two years after the federal election in September 2021, just 18 per cent think the previously untested Social Democratic (SPD)-lead alliance with the Greens and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) will be back for a second term.


After settling a standoff on child poverty measures on Monday, attention shifted to disagreement on whether to cut – or subsidise – energy prices for manufacturing companies to keep them – and their jobs – in Germany.

The Green-controlled economics ministry is in favour, the FDP-controlled finance ministry is opposed. Scholz was in favour on the campaign trial in 2021, but as chancellor he shares FDP opposition to what he views as “flash-in-the-pan” state interventions.

Unlucky for him his party – of which he is not leader – has other ideas as sustained poor poll numbers make Bundestag MPs nervous.

At the weekend the SPD parliamentary party, until now remarkably loyal to the chancellor, flexed its muscles and backed energy subsidies. SPD Bundestag floor leader Ralf Mützenich took a swipe at the FDP’s opposition and urged them to “not always say no” to such interventions. His real target, though, was Scholz. Asked whether he would back his own party’s position on tax cuts, the chancellor said darkly: “We’ll see.”

Not satisfied with one policy kite, the SPD sent up a second on housing. The party wants to cap rent increases to 6 per cent over three years in cities with overheated housing markets. But doing so depends on action from the FDP-controlled justice ministry.

On Monday, the SPD’s leftist general secretary Kevin Kühnert, never one for understatement, said the FDP was “holding hostage” tenant protection provisions and “costing tenants money each month”.

“It would be good if we could implement what we have agreed in our coalition agreement,” he added.

The weekend SPD policy papers on tax and housing, key social issues for its voters, has been seen in some quarters as the leftist party base emancipating itself from its centrist-liberal chancellor. And after two years of uncharacteristic political calm in the SPD, unease at the chancellor is spreading with its youngest members urging him to “legislate, not arbitrate”.

“Mr Scholz sees himself, I think, most strongly as a facilitator between the FDP and Green and that is a huge problem” said Sarah Mohamed, a 31-year-old running for head of the SPD youth wing.

On top of the chancellor’s domestic woes, French president Emmanuel Macron used a meeting with diplomats on Monday in Paris to describe Germany’s exit from nuclear energy this year as a “historic mistake”.

While the SPD chancellor waits to see how far his own party push him, he has warned his coalition partners that even if they cannot agree on everything, at least put more effort into tact and expectation management. “We should concentrate more on emphasising the success of our governance and keep discussions on our plans internal.”

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin