Yesterday, the front page of the Bild Zeitung, Germany's largest daily newspaper, featured a photo of the leaders of the Greens and the FDP Liberals smiling; the photo, published by both at the same time on Instagram, received more than 200,000 likes in the space of a few hours and has become a real catchphrase on social media: there is even a version of the four of them singing 'Bella Ciao' posted on Twitter. The media focus on the two minor parties of the possible governing coalition in Germany is quickly explained. The Greens and Liberals will decide who will be Merkel's successor. Scholz claims the chancellery for himself, while Laschet, while finally congratulating Scholtz and acknowledging his victory, points out that there is no clear mandate for government, neither for the CDU/CSU nor for the SPD, since the difference in votes is very small. Mathematically, then, a new edition of the grand coalition would be feasible - but this possibility is not seriously considered by either the CDU/CSU or the SPD. At the moment, a three-party coalition (a first in Germany) seems the most likely option, but who will be the majority partner remains an open question. A traffic light coalition (SPD, FDP and Greens) is possible as well as the so-called Jamaica coalition (CDU/CSU, FDP and Greens). Scholz has made it clear that he is aiming for a "traffic light" coalition not least because a red-red-green government (SPD, Greens and The Left) is five seats short (363 seats, 368 seats required for a majority).
So it is not surprising that, showing considerable wisdom and also having learned the lessons of previous failed negotiations, the Greens and Liberals decided to talk to each other immediately after the announcement of the election results and that this created considerable curiosity; both have the firm intention of governing and know that they are faced with a great opportunity. Of course, the Liberals would prefer to govern with the CDU-CSU, the Greens have made no secret of their preference for the SPD, and it is well known that the two parties have very different positions on a number of points that are really central to the government's action, from the role of the state, to wealth taxes, to reform of the stability pact and the balanced budget, from the minimum wage to the ceiling on rents, from the exit from coal, to the timescale for the complete decarbonisation of the economy, from pink quotas to the increase in taxes to encourage public investment, a real taboo for the Liberals; but there are also some elements of convergence, from rights, to digital, to the modernisation of education, the rule of law, migration and even some aspects of climate policies such as transport: after the break-up in 2017, when Angela Merkel tried to build with the two parties an alternative coalition to the one with the socialists, which even then looked stale, regular contacts have been woven at the most different levels, which is helping because, in politics as in life, the human factor also counts; moreover, in Schleswig-Holstein where Green co-leader Habeck was Minister, and in Reinland Pfalz Greens and Liberals are part of the same coalition.
Both parties are then at a crucial moment in their history. The Liberals have the opportunity to return to government after their disastrous exit from parliament in 2012.
As for the Greens, with 14.8% they have achieved their biggest result since their inception and will be the third largest group in the Bundestag, after being the smallest group in the previous legislature; they have still increased their following among young people - as have the Liberals - while the Socialists have kept it at the same level and the CDU-CSU and AFP have decreased it. The Greens won an unexpected number of direct mandates (16, previously only one) and with Jamila Schäfer won a Bundestag constituency in Bavaria for the first time. The first black woman (Awet Tesfaiesus) will enter the Bundestag among the Greens and two trans women (Nyke Slawik, Tessa Ganserer) were elected as MPs for the first time. It is precisely this success, important but not yet overwhelming, that makes it essential for the Greens to enter the next government and make a difference.
The climate crisis is also biting rich Germany, as the disastrous floods and deaths last July demonstrated; in the next ten years we will be gambling on whether or not we can stop the most catastrophic effects of climate change and develop the technologies and resources to adapt to those that already exist. The green turn in industry and energy is lagging behind even in Europe's leading green economy (the second being Italy) and is not fully achieved. The EU looks more and more like a geo-political dwarf, and Merkel's Germany has had an ineffective and short-lived policy in its relations with Turkey, China and Russia, centred exclusively on the commercial aspects of narrow German interest; in Europe it has often had little reforming ambition and an over-indulgent attitude towards Orban and Poland, while the Banking Union is still at the pole because Merkel (and Scholtz) have always rejected the idea of a common guarantee on deposits. The "schwartz nul" ideology (balanced budgets at all costs with deleterious effects on public investments) is still strong and this obviously creates a certain fear in Brussels and in the countries of Southern Europe about the position that Germany will take when the issue of the return of the Stability Pact is reopened, with or without its reform. In short, it is more than evident that the Greens will be the strongest element of discontinuity in the future "traffic light" executive (if it is made), the guarantors of a government for the climate but also of a Europe that is more attentive to rights and solidarity; as Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck pointed out at their first press conference after the elections, the Greens have received a "mandate for the future", albeit less substantial than expected. The difference between expectations and results, however, is worth opening a parenthesis. According to a study just published by Avaaz, ("Germany's unresolved disinformation problem") there was a strong disinformation campaign that affected Baerbock 72%, Laschet 28% and Scholtz insignificantly. Without wishing to deny the importance of the socialist comeback and some carelessness on the part of the Green candidate, moreover, exaggeratedly exaggerated, it is more than evident that this factor weighed on the German Greens' result and cannot be denied. Moreover, the polarisation of recent weeks between the CDU-CSU and the SPD has brought the usual duel between the two major parties back to the centre of the political debate, diverting attention from the issues that have long influenced German choices, such as climate change.
That said, net of the impact of these elements on the Green Party's results, and therefore on the balance of the future government, the Germans have shown that they want to be more decisive in the fight against climate change and have moved towards less conservative positions, particularly on social issues, but they have not abandoned their proverbial prudence and attachment to traditional parties; they are thus about to be governed by an executive that is likely to have strong internal divisions. Germany alone will therefore not be able to exercise clear leadership on the three issues that will determine its and our future: the fight against climate change and its social and economic impact, and the defence of democracy and peace in an increasingly unstable world. This will require a strong mobilisation of German and European civil society and much more decisive action by European institutions and some governments to overcome the delays, divisions and inefficiencies that are still preventing the Germans and all of us from emerging from the multiple crises we are facing and playing a positive role in the world.