According to surveys, dissatisfaction with the Chancellor is greater than ever before. There have also been rumblings in his party recently. At the party conference he appears unimpressed and combative. The delegates thank him.
In view of the budget crisis, the SPD has indirectly called for the debt brake to be suspended in 2024. The delegates at the federal party conference decided unanimously on Saturday that “constitutionally stipulated leeway for the budget” must be used in the interests of the population. Politically, the war in Ukraine created the prerequisites for an emergency that would enable increased borrowing. However, the wording could leave room for interpretation.
Party leader Saskia Esken emphasized: “We cannot manage the crisis from the normal budget.” The debt brake exception rule must be applied again. The SPD is not prepared to finance the means to deal with the war in Ukraine and its consequences through cuts in the social budget.
Speech by the Federal Chancellor
Chancellor Olaf Scholz had previously called on the SPD to show unity in order to defy the party’s dramatic low polls and the budget crisis. “We have to stick together and have a clear course,” said the Chancellor on Saturday in a combative speech to the 600 delegates at the party conference in Berlin. Scholz clearly rejected the dismantling of the welfare state and the cuts in citizens’ money demanded by the FDP. However, he left out the controversial issue of deporting rejected asylum seekers.
Almost five minutes of standing applause
The delegates celebrated Scholz with almost five minutes of standing applause. SPD leader Saskia Esken then thanked him for his speech: “Everyone in this room feels that you are at home here,” she said.
The clear support for the Chancellor was not necessarily to be expected. In recent months, frustration has spread within the party due to poor poll numbers. The SPD is only at 14 to 17 percent. In the 2021 federal election it was 25.7 percent. Dissatisfaction with the Chancellor’s work is greater than ever before. According to a current survey by the opinion research institute YouGov, only one in five people like how Scholz is leading the government.
51 minutes without manuscript
The Chancellor was unimpressed by this. Although he came to the lectern with a folded piece of paper, he delivered his 51-minute speech freely throughout. Some would have expected that the SPD’s cohesion would be over at the party conference, he said right at the beginning. But that won’t happen. “This social democratic party will continue to work together for the next few years.”
Scholz looked back four years. At that time too, the SPD was in a very difficult situation. No one believed the Social Democrats would be successful in the federal election two years before the 2021 election. The Chancellor emphasized that the unity has held since then. “Nobody expected us to last this long, thank you for that.”
Scholz is confident about budget negotiations
Scholz did not go into detail about the difficult negotiations with Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck (Greens) about closing the 17 billion euro hole in the 2024 budget. But he still had a few messages ready.
The Chancellor ruled out any serious intervention in social benefits. “In such a situation there will be no dismantling of the welfare state in Germany,” he promised and clearly rejected FDP demands for cuts in citizens’ benefits.
He was nevertheless confident that an agreement would be reached in the traffic lights. “We are not faced with an unsolvable task. Everyone now just needs to come to an agreement,” he said. At the same time, Scholz admitted that the situation was very difficult, “especially when you can’t just do it the way you think is right, but also have to come to an agreement with others.” Negotiations will continue on Sunday.
Scholz warns against right-wing radical tendencies
It became very quiet in the room when Scholz spoke about the danger of right-wing radical tendencies spreading in society. “We have a history and we have a responsibility for democracy. And that’s why we can’t let this happen,” said Scholz.
The conflict issue of deportations is avoided
When it came to the controversial issue of migration, Scholz made it easy for himself. He avoided the sensitive issue of repatriating rejected asylum seekers and concentrated on promoting the immigration of skilled workers: “As a country of immigration, Germany still needs the prospect of accepting those who are necessary for the growth and prosperity of this society.”
In recent weeks, the government’s migration policy has caused some discontent on the left wing of the SPD. It was particularly sparked by a sentence from the Chancellor in a “Spiegel” interview: “We finally have to deport on a large scale those who have no right to stay in Germany.”
Juso boss demands offensive from Scholz
The leadership of the Jusos criticized this as “straight from the vocabulary of the right-wing mob”. Philipp Türmer, who has now been elected chairman of the youth association, wrote: “I could vomit at this quote.”
Türmer did not address this again in the discussion about the Chancellor’s speech. However, he called on Scholz to take more action in the traffic light coalition. “Dear Olaf, if you want to play defense, you have to play attack,” he demanded. “You are the head of the government, not Robert and Christian’s couples therapist,” he said, referring to Habeck and Lindner.
Overall, there is hardly any criticism of the government’s course
Overall, there was hardly any criticism of the government’s course in the debate. This continued the picture that the Social Democrats had already presented on Friday at the start of the party conference. When electing the party leadership, the delegates refrained from punishing the leadership trio made up of party leaders Lars Klingbeil and Saskia Esken as well as General Secretary Kevin Kühnert. On the contrary: Esken and Kühnert significantly improved their results from the last election two years ago.
After the speech, Klingbeil and Esken took the Chancellor into their midst. The three presented themselves arm in arm to the applauding delegates.
SPD party conference