Climate Policy 26 September, 2017 11:00 am   

Election in Germany will not ax Energiewende, but it may ax Nord Stream 2 

According to the preliminary results of the parliamentary elections in Germany, Angela Merkel will govern the country for the fourth term. The results also exposed the march of the populists and the failure of the socialists. The lack of post-communists in the coalition is a chance to block Nord Stream 2, for which Poland is hoping; but it is not an opportunity to turn away from the energy transition – writes Wojciech Jakóbik,’s editor in chief.

Exit polls show that Chancellor Merkel’s CDU/CSU received 32.8 percent of votes (8.7 percent fewer than in the previous parliament), socialists from SPD got 20.4 percent (- 5.3 percent), populists from AfD – 13 percent (8.3 percent more), liberals from FDP 10.7 percent (5.9 percent more), the left from Die Linke 9.1 percent (+0.5 percent) and the Greens 9 percent (+0.6 percent).

A chance for Jamaica 

The results show that the conservative and socialist fractions, which created the Grand coalition that has been in power in Germany in the recent years, have been weakened. The votes transferred to the Alternative fur Deutschland, which has pro-fascist orientations and to liberals from the FDP. Since the populists have been ostracized across the nation, they will probably not be let into the coalition. Meanwhile the SPD decided its result was a failure and has already declared it would not join the ruling coalition. This means the Grand coalition is over and a new alliance is in the works, one that Poland was hoping for. The so-called ‘Jamaica’ option includes conservatives, liberals and the Greens.

However, before the coalition is formed key differences between the parties need to be settled. The main one pertains to the energy transition, or Energiewende. The argument is not over its necessity, which is questioned only by the ostracized AfD. The dispute will pertain to the pace of changes in Germany’s energy sector. The conservatives and liberals have frequently appealed for commercializing the Energiewende. Whereas, the Greens have been fundamentally supporting as quick a transition as possible. The bone of contention may revolve around the key postulates: deciding on when to do away with coal in Germany and when to introduce a ban on internal-combustion engines. Still, it is worth remembering that it was the SPD which was the main culprit behind hindering the changes in the coal sector, which has a strong presence in east Germany, where the party’s biggest electorate is. Perhaps a compromise will be easier without the socialists. If the parties reach an agreement, the ‘Jamaica’ coalition may happen. Perhaps this will make way for a more flexible approach towards the issue that is key to Poland. The presence of the SPD in the Grand coalition guaranteed a protective umbrella for energy cooperation with Russia and the Nord Stream 2 project. It also ensured the continuation of the Ostpolitik based on the idea that a mutual economic dependence with Russia will civilize the policy of the former Soviet Union states, a policy compromised by the events in Crimea. At a meeting in Moscow Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel promised that he would not let the European Commission interfere in the construction of the controversial Nord Stream 2. At the same time lately Merkel’s faction has become more critical of the project. Its political price is growing and Manfred Weber, chairman of the European People’s Party at the European Parliament, called for blocking the endeavor. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote the same. The Greens are against cooperating with Vladimir Putin’s regime because of priciples and their support for renewable energy sources. Still, the Liberals need to be conviced as their position on the matter remains ambivalent. Perhpas they will be willing to make concessions for subjecting Energiewende to market-driven solutions, which in turn could be supported by Merkel’s people.

Weaker, but more agreeable? 

From a general point of view, the election result in Germany is bad for Europe because it impairs Berlin’s stability, as it will be governed by a weaker coalition. From the Polish point of view ‘Jamaica’ may, but does not have to be beneficial for our interests. We also do not know whether it is actually possible for such a coalition to emerge. The worst outcome of the elections was the AfD’s populists march to a win that saw the biggest increase in support among all parties that ran in the elections.