300 silent miracles of Berlin: You can tell how seriously the traffic light coalitionists mean it

Comment from Hugo Müller-Vogg: 300 silent miracles from Berlin: You can see how serious the traffic light coalitionaries mean

Politicians from the SPD, FDP and Greens are currently working on and negotiating the coalition agreement in 22 working groups. Journalists are desperate: the future traffic light coalition will not let anything leak out. Nothing at all. Annoying for journalists, but it is a good sign for citizens.

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The emerging traffic light coalition WILL be a novelty at the federal level. In the federal states, the SPD, Greens and FDP have tried three times together: with moderate success in Brandenburg (1990-1994) and Bremen (1991-1995), and quite successfully in Rhineland-Palatinate (since 2016). But that has never been attempted in the Bund.

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Not only is the red-green-yellow color combination new, it is also new how this coalition should come about. Because first the Greens and FDP had agreed to try it with the Social Democrats. They were united by the will not to allow themselves to be kept on a short leash by their largest partner, the SPD. This dispelled the main concern of the Free Democrats – for the time being – that the Red-Green need the Liberals to procure the majority, but not let them co-govern properly.

300 locked oysters – the great silence of the traffic light

Another novelty: Since last Wednesday the coalition agreement has been negotiated without anything significant having leaked out. 22 working groups with a total of 300 members meet every day. According to the will of the party leaders, they should, if possible, agree on content-related details in all political fields within the framework set by the exploratory paper: from foreign policy to climate and pensions to questions about the future. They are allowed to argue and wrestle with each other over any formulation. There is only one thing they are not allowed to do: let everything leak out.

The three hundreds of federal politicians from the first and second rows and from their employees have managed this amazingly well so far. Of course, you can easily work out where the lines of conflict run, for example in the areas of taxes or immigration. But the 300 work like locked oysters. Everything is organized in such a way that the 22 working groups can take a day off this Wednesday, as planned, in order to draw an interim conclusion. Even long-serving capital correspondents with the best connections are desperate. There has never been so little to report as in these coalition negotiations.

About the author: Hugo Müller-Vogg

Dr. Hugo Müller-Vogg is a journalist, book author and former editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).

The harmony of the three traffic light partners, their refusal to make a name for themselves during the negotiations at the expense of the other, the lack of opportunities for interest groups to influence the conversations in their public interest, are a disaster from the point of view of the media. One can only report about these coalition negotiations that there is nothing to report. The fact that, as a matter of principle, negotiations do not take place at night and that the resolutions of the working groups may comprise a maximum of six pages, on the other hand, is information that the public can do without.

Traffic light discussions: Professionally managed “closed shop”

These coalition negotiations in the style of a “closed shop” impress with their professionalism. In comparison, the failed Jamaica soundings in 2017 seem like the performance of an amateur play group. The public, since the three potential cooperatives are serious about opening a new chapter in federal politics. Whether this will actually succeed is another matter.

If some commentators complain that these negotiations behind closed doors and curtained windows would be undemocratic, then it is primarily the understandable frustration of journalists that speaks of it. Of course, democracy also lives from the transparency of political decision-making processes. But nowhere is it written that every negotiation, every search for compromises has to take place in the media marketplace, or can only be called “democratic” if you are continuously accompanied by piercings and indiscretions.

Coalition means compromise

One thing is clear: coalition and compromise don’t just begin with the same two letters; they also require one another. Whenever two or three partners ally to govern, neither can make their election campaign one-on-one a government program. Each of the parties has positions that are non-negotiable for them. But in return, each partner also has to make concessions.

The future coalition members always keep in mind that the whole must be approved by their party committees and approved by their voters. The goal: The large mosaic package, the large project and projects, must support their own clientele in such a way that the majority of voters can become friends with the compromise – and thus with the cooition.

“Culture of togetherness” – Jamaica talks of 2017 as a chilling example

The failed Jamaica talks four years ago followed a completely different pattern. Each of the three parties leaked a public, has allegedly already been reached and, unfortunately, was at risk of failure due to the stubbornness of this or that potential coalition partner. This gave the affected interest groups the opportunity to break out in public applause or boos. This was anything but beneficial for the internal climate – and the end is known.

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The path that the SPD, Greens and FDP have now taken is much more promising – if it can be followed. The parties and voters should only see the overall package once it has been negotiated. Then everyone can determine whether the green handwriting in climate policy, for example, is clear enough to console the renunciation of Tempo 130. Or whether more generous contributions to the new citizens’ money alias Hartz IV reconcile the members and voters of the SPD with the fact that the FDP has prevented massive tax increases.

Halfway through the coalition negotiations, the following interim conclusion can be drawn: SPD, Greens and FDP have so far successfully practiced the new “culture of togetherness” they were striving for. These quietest coalition negotiations of all time may be frustrating for journalists. From the point of view of most citizens, they should be more of a hopeful sign. With one major caveat: if the “closed shop” continues to work until the end and the voters of red, green and yellow see a large part of their expectations confirmed in the compromise found. But the desired red-green-yellow “happy ending” is far from guaranteed.

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