Opposition in times of crisis: partial successes walking a fine line


Status: 04/26/2022 1:10 p.m

Whether vaccination or arms deliveries: the Union is driving the federal government in front of it – a fine line in times of crisis. Does it find the right balance between biting and constructive opposition?

By Kristin Marie Schwietzer, ARD Capital Studio

The Union advances – the coalition follows suit. Goal achieved? At least that’s how it was with the general obligation to vaccinate. Suddenly the Emperor had no clothes on. Chancellor Olaf Scholz was unable to implement his announcement that vaccination would be compulsory for everyone.

The decision on the issue of arms deliveries is still pending. At least the CDU and CSU have a partial success. The opposition leader was once again able to drive the traffic light coalition in front of him with their request for heavy weapons to be delivered directly from Germany as quickly as possible from Bundeswehr stocks or from German manufacturers.

The threatening gesture of poaching votes from the ranks of the traffic lights has at least one effect. The coalition factions promptly announce their own application.

And this morning the government follows suit and clears the way for the delivery of tanks to Ukraine. The defense minister is allowed to announce this on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting at the US base in Ramstein. According to Christine Lambrecht, it is about used Bundeswehr tanks that have been refurbished by industry. No ring exchange, direct delivery.

Is it all just party tactics?

Sounds like a success to the Union. But you don’t want to say it like that. Instead, the Union is now trying not to carry it off like a triumph. This is not a strategy, but a purely factual decision.

Thorsten Frei, the parliamentary manager of the Union faction, is pleased with the reaction from the chancellery. What you hear from the traffic light gives hope that things are going in the right direction. If the government’s application essentially meets the Union’s requirements, “then we will of course also support it.”

It is what it is: opposition work that hurts the government. The traffic light coalition reacted irritably. The SPD faction leader Rolf Mützenich finds in the ARD morning magazine: “The discussion of the last few days has a massively militaristic bias.” SPD, Greens and FDP accuse the Union of party tactical games. That too is part of the political tone.

“Heavy weapons are not the only challenge,” said Rolf Mützenich, chairman of the SPD parliamentary group, on the criticism of the government’s Ukraine policy

Morning magazine, April 26, 2022

A fine line

The Greens and FDP should not have forgotten how things are in the opposition. During the electoral law reform of the last legislature, they pushed the then black-red coalition in front of them with their own proposal. The Union does the same. It shows – the election loser has found his new role. The chancellery is gone. That should now be clear to everyone. Merz wants biting and constructive opposition work.

But the path is also a fine line in times of crisis. The Union faction knows that too. It’s about human lives and a brutal war in the middle of Europe, which doesn’t make it easy for the government and opposition to make the right decisions. Supplying heavy weapons is not just party tactics. It also corresponds to the conviction of the Union faction in the Bundestag.

Fear of sanctions consequences

In the eastern associations of the CDU, some decisions in Berlin are still being viewed critically these days. Michael Kretschmer, the Prime Minister of Saxony, has openly formulated his concerns. The Christian Democrats there are concerned that the sanctions against Russia will hit their own population with all their might.

Higher energy prices combined with lower incomes are likely to once again provoke protests. Social upheavals caused by an overly restrictive Russia policy have potential for populists. The AfD has proven often enough in recent years that it knows how to use the anger of the streets for itself, most recently during the Corona protests. In short, fear of the AfD is back in the East. That’s why the Union in the federal government must be careful not to go too far in its criticism of Russia.

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