A decisive day for Germany’s potential ‘grand coalition’

Today in Bonn, 600 delegates from Germany’s center-left Social Democrats (SPD) are about to vote on whether or not to continue negotiations toward another “grand coalition” with Angela Merkel’s conservatives.

It’s of course tough to predict exactly how the vote will turn out — but spending some time in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia last week showed me just how strong and visceral some SPD members’ opposition is to a so-called “GroKo.” Many of them felt their party didn’t get enough concessions from the conservative CDU/CSU bloc — like on their desire to create a citizens’ insurance, or Bürgerversicherung, another topic I reported on this month — and don’t necessarily trust their would-be governing partners to keep their promises. Many also worried that another grand coalition would further damage the SPD’s electoral prospects in the future.

Reporting out that story was a reminder of why I love being a political journalist: while it’s fine to be based in a big capital city like D.C. or Berlin, getting out into the rest of the country and talking to local-level politicians and voters is such a better way to take the temperature of a country or a party.  The piece was my last for Politico Europe, where I finished up my three-month placement last Friday.

Apart from heading to NRW, I’ve spent the majority of these last few months paying attention to the day-to-day progress of talks — starting with the first days of the Jamaica coalition negotiations (between Merkel’s CDU/CSU, the liberal Free Democrats and the Greens), then the breakdown of those talks, then the slow process the SPD has taken toward another grand coalition. It gave me a chance to delve into the key leaders in each of the parties and the roles they’re playing as these negotiations have unfolded.

Now that I’ve finished up with Politico, I’ll spend a few weeks traveling — including to Italy, for some reporting ahead of their March 4 elections — and then head back to Berlin for a second work placement.

Downtown Detmold, Germany, one of the towns in NRW I visited for my story.
The city center in Detmold, a town in North Rhine-Westphalia I visited as part of my reporting