There are good reasons for the traffic light to question its alliance. One of the strongest is also the youngest. The fact that 60 billion euros are no longer available for the climate fund and a budget freeze that apparently applies to almost the entire federal budget are more than a "thorny opportunity" that Christian Lindner once glossed over problems. A number of projects that are particularly close to the hearts of the Greens and the SPD Left have been deprived of their funding basis for the time being. The shaking of the debt brake, from the Jusos to the SPD chairwoman Esken to the Greens, is becoming more and more violent. The finance minister from the FDP, but also the chancellor, oppose it. The fissures run right through the governing alliance.
Coalition born out of necessity
Beyond these concrete problems, even the last whitewasher knows that the "coalition of progress" born out of mathematical necessity has a gross error in its priorities: the desire for financial stability stands in the way of advocating borrowing in the name of ecology and the welfare state. The dispute between the partners is gaining momentum. On Monday, criticism from the SPD left of the FDP's demands for social cuts was already combined with a reference to the cohesion of the coalition.
You can also tell the story from a different perspective. This coalition has achieved a lot. The response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine – especially arms deliveries and battle tanks – has so far functioned without any significant friction. And who would have thought it possible that Germany would be able to do without Russian gas within a few months without anyone having to take a cold shower?
Other shortcomings of the Merkel era have been eliminated. Germany, which is desperately looking for workers, has finally passed a law on the immigration of skilled workers, which will hopefully shift illegal migration towards legal migration. Or: One of the decisive obstacles to the acceptance of the energy transition, the EEG levy, which drives up the price of electricity for consumers, was quietly abolished by the traffic light after Merkel's governments failed to do so.
But the cohesion of a coalition is not measured by a list of successes or failures. In Germany, coalition government alliances have broken up just twice in the past half-century: in 1982 and 2005.
What would be the reasons for the SPD, the Greens and the FDP?
To whom would this apply currently? Certainly not for the SPD. Both the chancellor and his party are in such a lousy position in the polls that ending the alliance with the fractious green and yellow partners would lead directly to a political minefield. Scholz has a majority with the CDU/CSU in the Bundestag and could save himself in a grand coalition. But that would be the proverbial suicide out of fear of death. Because the Union leaves no doubt that it would only support Scholz for a limited time. Then an early Bundestag election would be due.
In view of the current polls, it is difficult to imagine that the SPD would end up ahead of the CDU – chancellor bonus or Scholz's super-optimism – in view of the current polls. As chancellor, Scholz would end up in the league of Ludwig Erhard and Kurt Georg Kiesinger. At most, for Friedrich Merz, the CDU chairman, this could be an attractive opportunity to avoid a long struggle for the chancellor candidacy and to become the chancellor candidate in a surprise coup.
The Greens, who have long since come down to earth after the chancellor's dreams two years ago, also have no good reason to leave the coalition. After 16 years of opposition, they returned to the troughs of power two years ago. Turning away from them now would lead to an uncertain future. Whatever the outcome of the next federal election, they will want to fill up four years of traffic lights.
That leaves the FDP. As uncomfortable as it is for them in the coalition next to the SPD and the Greens, they govern even if one state election after another has ended badly. The polls are dangerously close to the five percent mark. Jumping off the ship would be highly risky and would cement the reputation that Christian Lindner – remembering the Jamaica exit – pinches in difficult situations. He would only risk this if he believed that this would make it less likely that he would leave the Bundestag in the next election. He will not want to leave behind an extra-parliamentary field of rubble, no matter what his own future looks like.