Manuela Schwesig has decided – for a new coalition with a partner with whom her party has already ruled for two legislative terms: the left becomes a junior partner in the new state government.
The SPD and its prime minister had won a major victory in the state elections on September 26, which almost came close to the historic result of Schwesig’s predecessor Harald Ringstorff two decades ago. At that time he managed 40.6 percent, she now 39.6 percent.
Rejection of the SPD to the big loser CDU
For the Federal SPD, Schwesig’s decision does not come as a surprise. On the one hand, the party is doing everything it can to break away from the CDU, to sharpen its own profile. In addition, the CDU in Schwerin, like in the federal government, is unsorted in terms of personnel after the severe defeat and is considered to be too unstable. The top candidate and state head Michael Sack as well as parliamentary group leader and general secretary Wolfgang Waldmüller have resigned, so Eckhardt Rehberg (67), who has left the Bundestag, had to take over the provisional chairmanship again.
The extent to which the CDU has lost trust in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is also shown by the fact that in the federal elections that took place at the same time, the constituency of Vorpommern-Rügen / Vorpommern Greifswald from Angela Merkel, which she held for 30 years, to the young SPD politician Anna Kassautzki (27) left.
Schwesig made a name for himself in national politics through the Corona crisis, she repeatedly pointed out the needs of children and parents to Merkel and set up a permanent dialogue with the local economy. She is considered a tough advocate, so she has fought vigorously for a quick start of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline and is critical of the Russian sanctions.
In the Federal SPD, it is pointed out that Schwesig has chosen a partner with the Left Party, which takes similar positions in matters of Russia and social policy, who is unlikely to make life difficult for her. With 9.9 percent, it is the weakest partner in terms of results that is still enough for a two-party alliance with the SPD.
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But strategically, Schwesig’s election is a problem for SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz. The Left Party in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania may be more pragmatic than in the federal government, but with a view to the Federal Council and the effect on the courted FDP, the prospects are difficult.
Scholz is currently trying to anchor the SPD in the federal government more in the middle. The FDP is now being shown once again that in the end it will be part of a coalition with two more left-wing parties and that the left wing of the SPD Scholz and the possible coalition could parade on important decisions.
Schwesig and Franziska Giffey could have entered into a traffic light alliance in both Schwerin and Berlin. Schwesig and her state SPD decided against it because it is easier with just one partner. Giffey was urged by her party to prefer red-red-green. The majority search in the regional chamber for federal projects is very complicated.
“Similarities between the SPD and the left are greater”
So far, there have only been red-red alliances in Berlin (2002 to 2011), Schwerin (1998 to 2006) and Potsdam (2009-2019). However, Schwesig achieved too clear an election victory for the Federal SPD to criticize their decision.
It is now eagerly awaited whether Schwesig will strive for a stronger role again for the SPD federal party conference in December. SPD leader Saskia Esken has declared that she wants to run again, her co-chairman Norbert Walter-Borjans has been keeping this open so far.
From the camp of the left, reference is made to the substantive proximity of the red-red partners in Schwerin. “The similarities are greater in school policy, regional development and social infrastructure,” says Horst Kahrs, election analyst at the party-affiliated Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.
With the left, more consideration will be possible for those who benefit less from economic development in a “very diverse country” like Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania – with flourishing tourism on the coast and in the areas close to the metropolises of Hamburg and Berlin and a hinterland with a lot of commuters. Red-Red would certainly have a better feel for the development problems in the northeast.
Even in opposition number two – how will the CDU react to the AfD?
Kahrs sees another motive in the desperate situation of the state CDU, which suffered a historic defeat and changed practically all of its staff. “That doesn’t necessarily make it attractive for the SPD to continue to govern with it.” For the SPD, “which is still the state party in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, also thanks to strong leaders”, Manuela Schwesig’s decision for red-red “is also an expression of a certain sovereignty: Look here, we can form a coalition with everyone”.
Kahrs also considers the new situation in the Schwerin state parliament to be exciting, a kind of test on the post-Merkel CDU nationwide: “For the first time we have a red-red government that faces the AfD as the largest opposition party. It will be interesting to see how the CDU asserts itself: If it sets itself apart, it will work together with the AfD? After Thuringia, the conflict over how to deal with the far right is now likely to worsen across Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania throughout the Union. “
For the left and its clientele, says Kahrs, the participation in the government, especially after the losses in the state elections and the narrow entry into the Bundestag, is a sign “that it still plays a role”.