New German government: Left rebel gains influence in Chancellor’s party | Germany | In-depth news and reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW



The new German coalition government led by the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) has just taken office – and already the new party secretary, Kevin Kühnert, wants to see amendments to the coalition agreement with the Greens and the Free New Democrats (FDP). Left winger Kühnert does not hide that he is not satisfied with what has been agreed, for example, on the ceiling on rents or on the supplement to unemployment benefits.

Many leftist demands were dropped in the negotiations, as the business-oriented FDP leans to the right of the political spectrum. However, Kühnert insists that several questions have been reserved for careful consideration and further discussion between the three parties.

The SPD must clearly and forcefully assert its positions, according to the 32-year-old, who has a long-term strategy in mind: the Social Democratic Party, he said, “will continue to exist after the expiration of this current government mandate ”. Therefore, he said, the party must remain true to “its fundamental positions”.

Kevin Kühnert has big plans for the party and for his own future, and he’s never left the slightest doubt about it. In 2005, the native of Berlin joined the SPD at the age of only 16. From 2012, he made a career in the party’s youth organization, the “Jusos” (from Junge Sozialisten, or “Young Socialists”), first as head of the Berlin division, then from 2017 as Federal President.

Strong opponent of the grand coalition

After the 2017 German parliamentary elections, Kevin Kühnert campaigned vehemently against his party by re-entering a coalition with Angela Merkel’s conservatives. He failed, but only by a narrow margin.

Then, at the end of 2019, Kühnert and his Jusos supported the two left-wing outsiders Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans for the presidency of the party to the detriment of the moderate party then of the Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz and his running mate.

Kühnert describes himself as a socialist. He has been a member of the SPD executive committee since 2019.

That year he ruffled the feathers by calling for the collectivization of large German companies like BMW and democratic control of their profits. He also called on the end of the property: “Come to think of it, not everyone should have more living space than they themselves live in.”

The comments sparked outrage from SPD moderates.

By 2021, Kühnert seems to have mellowed. The college dropout is openly homosexual and lives with her husband in the German capital. He came to focus on his career in the party.

He successfully ran for the Bundestag, relinquishing Juso’s presidency and beating his leading rivals the Greens and the Left Party.

In his new role as general secretary of the SPD, Kühnert will have to be the chief organizer and coordinator of the party as a whole.

Politics is the search for compromise

The new Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, must be able to count on the support of his party. But Kühnert admits that political differences remain between him and the Chancellor. “If I said otherwise, I would be lying”, admits Kühnert openly.

During the election campaign, Kühnert loyally supported Scholz and also made sure that the Juso leadership visibly refrained from criticism.

Kevin Kühnert and Olaf Scholz know that they are now dependent on each other. Without Scholz, the SPD would not have won the Bundestag elections; but Kühnert is considered the greatest young talent in the SPD.

Cooperation will not always be completely harmonious. This became clear recently at the Federal Congress in Jusos, when Olaf Scholz called on the youth organization to refrain from criticizing the FDP coalition partners and the Greens. He argued that it would make more sense to focus on attacking the center-right opposition CDU / CSU than on coalition partners.

Kühnert, however, rejected the conference and replied that it would make sense to show confidence: In a coalition, he said, it is necessary to work well together, but at the same time to clarify what are the substantial differences between the parties, and let them play. “The FDP and the SPD do not come from the same political mold, it is a fact that cannot be hidden.”

As secretary general of the SPD, Kühnert says he does not want to deepen the divisions, but wants to ensure that the Social Democratic Party remains visible as the center of power in its own right and that it is not not overshadowed by the chancellor’s office or seen simply as an appendix. of the government. Whether this can be successful without friction or conflict remains to be seen.

This article has been translated from German.

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