Elected by the German deputies on December 8, 2021, and thus closing the page of Angela Merkel’s sixteen years in power, Olaf Scholz is completing a difficult first year in power, marked by the war in Ukraine. The balance sheet in national opinion twelve months later sounds like a sanction. 64% of Germans say they are dissatisfied with the coalition government he leads with environmentalists and liberals (against 36% a year ago), 58% are dissatisfied with Olaf Scholz (against 22%), according to an Insa poll published Sunday in the daily Bild.
In the event of elections today the coalition would be far from obtaining a majority. Nevertheless, “given the dramatic events that have occurred this year, he is doing very well,” said Nils Diederich, professor at the Free University of Berlin. Barely arrived in office, his government program which advocated budgetary rigor and ambitious climate policy was turned upside down by the Russian invasion and its consequences: arrival of refugees, energy shortage, inflation.
Social promises kept
His speech in the Bundestag on February 27, three days after the start of Putin’s offensive, in which he announced a sharp increase in German military spending, ushered the country into a new era. Furthermore, “Scholz’s government is made up of three parties with very different objectives. That doesn’t make it any easier for her,” notes Ursula Münch, director of the Academy for Political Education in Tutzing. “Governing has become all the more difficult as the political system is more fragmented than under the Christian Democrat Angela Merkel,” she notes.
Despite everything, the Scholz government managed to implement certain points of the program it had set itself, such as the increase in the minimum hourly wage to 12 euros, against 9.6 euros previously, and the reform of compensation -unemployment. Two themes dear to social democrats. Two other files, the legalization of cannabis and the modernization of German citizenship law, are currently in the works.
Energy and Europe, it gets stuck
On the other hand, the climate policy, the main objective of the Greens, is for the moment put on the back burner. In a context of energy shortages orchestrated by Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, Scholz twisted the arm of environmentalists, viscerally opposed to the atom, by extending the operation of the last three German nuclear power plants. And if the return to budgetary rigor defended by the other partner of the coalition, the FDP, is planned for next year, it is in reality thanks to a balancing act, with the multiplication of special funds, not counted in the official budget.
On the international scene, Merkel’s former finance minister is still making his mark. On a European scale, “it is difficult to grasp it politically”, judge Eric Maurice of the Brussels office of the Robert Schuman Foundation. At the end of August, Scholz had pleaded for an enlargement of the EU and the end of the right of veto which rhymes with paralysis of the institutions, during a speech in Prague, a sort of response to that of Emmanuel Macron given five years earlier in the Sorbonne. But according to Eric Maurice, “we do not see an all-encompassing vision of the future of Europe”.