August 25, 2017
Whatever happened to red-red-green?
When Martin Schulz returned early in the year to a Germany he hardly knew, the SPD's poll ratings improved dramatically for a short period. At one time the polls suggested that a combination of SPD, Greens, and the Left Party, would have a majority - red-red-green as this is called in Germany. After three lost state elections and a sustained fall in the poll ratings of the SPD, this option is no longer on the table. In the absence of a political earthquake the German elections are no longer about who will be the next chancellor, but about whether Angela Merkel will govern again with the SPD or the FDP.
FAZ has a good political analysis of the short red-red-green honeymoon. There were sections in the Left Party who always supported the option, and back in January even the hard-left faction led by Sarah Wagenknecht toyed with the idea because Schulz started his campaign with an emphasis on social justice. This openness lasted until about April, well after the loss of the state elections in the Saarland where the three parties failed to form a coalition because the Greens did not make it above the 5% threshold. The interpretation of the Left Party was different from that of the SPD. The Left Party said that, if the Greens had achieved a 1% increase in the votes, there would have been a solid majority. The SPD, and Schulz himself, instead concluded that they must move away from the red-red-green option, which Schulz subsequently did.
The Left Party pointed out, correctly in our view, that the SPD's prime minister in North-Rhine Westphalia ruled out a red-red-green option and still lost. The Left Party accused the SPD of accepting the CDU's own interpretation of the Saarland result in its rejection of red-red-green. That event led to the return to the status-quo-ante in the relationship between the two parties, with the Left Party fiercely criticising the SPD's support for military action in Syria and for what the Left likes to call neoliberal policies.
But there is also a political problem for the SPD. The Left Party is in some respects too right-wing. It has lost voters to the AfD, and Wagenknecht in particular has accepted that the AfD has a genuine argument about immigration. The SPD supported Merkel in her open immigration policies, but the left wing of the Left Party is aligning with the AfD on this issue - a clear no-go for the SPD.
Meanwhile, there has been a small shift in the polls in favour of the AfD. The party's downward trend seems to have reversed according to the latest ARD Deutschland Trend poll, which has the AfD up from 8% to 10%. This would make the AfD the third largest faction in the Bundestag.