Germany German social democrats maintain their course despite being in the demographic hole

The German Social Democratic Party (SPD) has emerged from the three-day congress in Berlin without internal bruises

Germany German social democrats maintain their course despite being in the demographic hole

The German Social Democratic Party (SPD) has emerged from the three-day congress in Berlin without internal bruises. No one has asked for responsibility for the budget crisis experienced by Olaf Scholz's government coalition or for the 14% in voting intention that the party obtains in the polls, a historic low. Rather the opposite has happened. Without the slightest self-criticism, except for the loud reproaches of the Socialist Youth (Jusos), the 600 delegates who attended the congress gave the Executive their approval. The motto was "unity" and supporting a chancellor in trouble. "We must remain united and have a clear direction," it was insisted from the stands.

The party presidents, Saskia Esken and Lars Klingbeil, were confirmed in their positions with very respectable results. They elected the Minister of Labor, Hubertus Heil, and the Minister President of Saarland, Anke Rehlinger, as primi inter pares in the ranks of the deputies with an extraordinary 96.6 and 95.5% of the votes, respectively. And with an electoral result of 92.5% they elevated Secretary General Kevin Kühnert from a left-wing hope for the future to a social democratic phenomenon of the present.

The result of the vote for Kühnert, former president of the Jusos, was especially expected. In the last two years, Kühnert has mutated from a left-wing arsonist to a moderating official who was mainly responsible for keeping calm in the SPD and covering the chancellor's back together with the party leadership and the parliamentary group leader of the SPD. SPD, Rolf Mützenich. Many expected a rather mediocre result from Kühnert. However, even Kühnert's biggest admirers were surprised by his approval rating. His efforts to moderate and find compromises between the different wings and positions of the SPD, especially behind the scenes, were rewarded.

Overall, there were some surprises. In the debate on the abolition of the debt brake, the Jusos initially presented a compromise: "In principle, we reject abstract limits on debt in the constitutions of the federal government and the federated states." Much to the delight of Jusos leader Philipp Türmer, the party conference later voted unanimously in favor of an even stricter version: "We reject the rigid limits on the borrowing of the federal and state governments, as we currently find in the constitutions." A victory for the left of the party, which was able to score another point. The delegates also decided to give the green light to the federal government to suspend the debt brake again for the 2024 federal budget to ensure the planning certainty of companies and the German economy and not jeopardize investments in neutral restructuring. for the climate.

Scholz reacted in his own way to the various comments on the debt brake from the delegates. He did not mention the matter at all in his speech. Instead, he promised that there would be "no dismantling of the welfare state in Germany" with him as chancellor. It was a generic promise, but enough to satisfy the longing for a clear social message that many in the SPD wanted to hear from his chancellor. Scholz was celebrated for his speech and honored by Saskia Esken: "Here you feel at home." Scholz has remained true to himself and his direction," the co-president said.

The SPS delegates may feel satisfied with these resolutions, which, if applied, would allow the 2024 budgets to be approved as they were before the November ruling of the Constitutional Court. But the reality is different. The Liberals (FDP), partners of the Government coalition and with control of the Ministry of Finance, refuse to loosen the debt brake and do not change their mind due to SPD resolutions that, in short, what they do is narrow the margin Scholz's maneuver in the negotiations.

The debate on immigration policy was somewhat more heated, with Scholz announcing in an interview that "we must deport once and for all on a large scale those who have no right to remain in Germany." In his speech, the chancellor refrained from repeating that statement about large-scale deportations when discussing the contentious issue of rejected asylum seekers. It would have seriously disturbed the newly established balance between chancellor and party.

Here too there was in the end a compromise: humane treatment of refugees, deportations when there is no right to stay and support for civil maritime rescue in the Mediterranean: these are now the positions of the SPD.

The debate on military matters turned out to be the most politically sensitive. A motion not to spend 2% of GDP on defense, contrary to NATO's internal commitment, could only be rejected by a narrow majority and under the rigid leadership of the presidency.

The SPD leaves the congress more united than it entered, but that does not take it out of the 14%. In the elections two years ago it received 25.7% of the support.