November 06, 2019
Could the German coalition fall over the basis minimum pension? Quite possibly.
We have tried to avoid getting too deep into the German debate on the basis minimum pension, an idea pushed by the SPD and rejected by the CDU. Depending on the outcome of the SPD leadership election, this might well turn into a critical issue for the future of the grand coalition.
But it is the politics within the CDU that is really interesting. As Eckart Lohse und Markus Wehner dissect in FAZ this morning, this debate is tangled up with the succession of Angela Merkel. Next to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer there are two politicians who are now positioning themselves for the top job. One is Markus Söder, CSU chairman, who is playing the uncharacteristic role of nice guy. His strategy is for the CDU candidates to self-destruct, and then to be asked to step in. The other is Friedrich Merz, who is planning a big programmatic speech at the CDU party congress on November 22 and 23 in Leipzig. As the authors explain, Merz will not be stupid enough to challenge AKK for the leadership. He wants to win the battle for ideas, and claim the leadership role afterwards.
AKK has clearly spotted the danger, which is why she is not compromising on the minimum pension. The CDU's position is that there can be no minimum pension without a detailed assessment of the claimant's assets, and those of their children. The SPD rejects means-testing because it would massively limit the political appeal of the basic pension. For one of the teams in the SPD leadership race - Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans - the basic minimum is the critical issue for the future of the grand coalition. This is why the SPD leadership contest matters more than usual this time.