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Scholz faces coalition strife, amid rising right and lower popularity

Published August 20,2023

With a backdrop of an ever popular far-right party in Germany, the government's current coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and a pro-business party has been grappling for months with how to dampen support for the far-right and improve theirs.

The public airing of inner-coalition troubles hasn't helped and on Sunday Chancellor Olaf Scholz once again called on coalition leaders to keep quiet in public.

He made his comments in a government open house day in which regular citizens gain access to top government officials and can ask them questions.

Scholz said he hopes that government officials will "get used to talking only when the understandings have been reached."

The inner party battles are perhaps not unexpected. The three coalition partners have varying interests and many disputes centre around money, which the more capitalist-oriented Free Democrats (FDP) have a lot of control of, since their leader Christian Lindner is the country's finance minister.

One of the latest rows centres around government support for poor children. Lisa Paus, the family minister and Green Party member, wants to consolidate and increase the payments while Lindner is against that.

He argues that the way the government supports such children and families is inefficient and in any case, the country cannot afford it.

Paus, in what is being seen as a bit of a counterattack, on Wednesday blocked Lindner's so-called Growth Opportunities Act, a legislative package with tax policy measures that are supposed to relieve the economy by about €6.5 billion ($7 billion) annually.

The German press has been filled with nearly daily stories about the row.

The troubles come as a poll released on Saturday showed that nearly two-thirds of German citizens want a new government - with just one in four (22%) in favour of keeping the current three parties in power.

On Friday, the Politbarometer poll conducted by the Forschungsgruppe Wahlen (Elections Research Group) on behalf of German public broadcaster ZDF found that 51% of Germans are unhappy with Scholz's performance as chancellor and 58% believe that the coalition government is doing a bad job.

And a poll conducted for Sunday's tabloid Bild newspaper showed Scholz's party losing more and more ground to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). The chancellor's Social Democratic Party (SPD) now only has 18%, two points fewer than in the previous week, and three points behind the AfD, which remained steady on 21%.

While the next federal election will be held no later than October 26, 2025, there are numerous state and local contests coming up. And while other topics can factor into state elections, they are often viewed as a sign of what is panning out on the federal level.

Citizens in Bavaria and Hesse go to the polls on October 8.