Could the FDP Bring Down the Government Coalition in Berlin?

Despite all its efforts to appear stable and united, the ruling coalition in Berlin (SPD, Greens, FDP) is paralyzed by many internal frictions, that are expected to increase in the coming few weeks and months. One potential trigger of a break-up is the lack of effective inflation control, and more especially the devastation of medium-sized and small companies due to unaffordable energy prices. This sector of the German economy is a traditional constituency of the FDP, and the government’s “green” energy policy is one of the main reasons the party was hit with massive losses in elections over the course of 2022.

With four state parliament elections to be held this year (in Berlin, Bremen, Bavaria and Hesse), numerous leading FDP members are calling on the party to distance itself from Berlin’s energy and climate policies, and to conduct campaigns for nuclear power. In a paper sent to the national party executive, two regional leaders, Bavarian FDP chairman Martin Hagen and Hesse’s top FDP candidate Stefan Naas, call for a complete shift in policies, to avoid more electoral disasters this year. They demand a strengthening of the German economy, the extension of nuclear power plant lifetimes, and a clear position against a “climate ideology hostile to growth and capitalism, that blatantly propagates the deindustrialization of Germany”.

While FDP party chairman Christian Lindner, who is Finance Minister, wants to avoid any conflict within the governing coalition, vice chairman and Transport Minister Volker Wissing seems commited to make the energy problem an issue. In the context of meeting Tesla automotive producer Elon Musk in early January, Wissing told media that all plans for e-mobility [presumably including the Tesla cars to be produced near Berlin] would be null and void, if the energy supply problem cannot be solved, which would require using nuclear power beyond the April 15 exit date set by the government. In earlier statements, he had called for an extension until at least the spring of 2024.

The question remains how the SPD and the Greens will react. Will they stick to their strict “no” to any nuclear power after April 15, or will they accept another concession (after postponing the original Dec. 31 deadline by three and a half months)? In the first case, the government coalition could collapse at mid-term, in 2023. The four state parliament elections will be held in May in Berlin and Bremen, followed by Bavaria in October and likely around that time also in Hesse.

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