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SPD in Saarland: Lots of power, lots of worries

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Status: 08/03/2022 12:42 p.m.

It is the only one-party government in Germany: the SPD governed the Saarland for 100 days. But the start was anything but easy. A decision in the United States will likely cost thousands of jobs in this sweaty country.

It was not in Saarbrücken, it was not in the Land Chancellery or in the Land Parliament, where perhaps the most ambitious decision of the first 100 days of the SPD’s single government in Saarland was taken. It was in the United States, in Detroit. In mid-June, Ford announced that the group’s new electric cars would not be built in Saarlouis in Saarland, but in Valencia.

Even though the signs have been growing for months, Anke Rehlinger and her successor as economy minister, Jürgen Barke, have tried to be optimistic until the end. But in the end it was in vain. It is very likely that this decision will mean the end of most of the approximately 4,500 jobs at the plant from 2025 and a substantial risk for another 2,000 at suppliers in the region. And it’s a major setback for Rehlinger, who had focused his election campaign almost exclusively on the issue of jobs.

Start with the least

With the announced objective of 400,000 jobs subject to social security contributions in the country, it is starting in the red. Even without this bad news for the Saarland economy, the program for the first 100 days would have been tight anyway. After about 80 days, the first key data for the new budget had to be in place, strictly controlled in the chronically sweaty Saarland by new finance minister Jakob von Weizsäcker, previously chief economist under finance minister Olaf Scholz.

In the planning there is still a black zero for the coming year, but the list of tasks with structural change and energy transition is long. It is clear, according to Rehlinger, “that these tasks cannot be managed within a basic budget”. Behind the scenes, there is always talk of a possible special fund, that is to say of a new debt. For years – except in times of Corona – it was a taboo in the country. But in view of almost 17 billion euros in debt for just under a million inhabitants, Rehlinger also knows that it must first be clarified with Berlin “whether such plans will be supported at all”.

The big questions about what to do next in Saarland, which was economically dependent on the federal trend for a long time even before the current crisis, are still open. And there were other things that didn’t live up to what they had announced during the election campaign. Instead of the 150 police candidates announced, there will only be between 115 and 120, to the chagrin of many police officers.

Focus on education

“We had to set clear priorities,” Rehlinger said during the budget presentation, “we did that.” The focus is on the theme of education. The return to the Abitur after nine years – as one of the last West German states – should now follow directly after the summer holidays. Rehlinger, in particular, pushed for rapid implementation here, some education politicians from the Saarland SPD could have imagined a little more time to think about it – especially since the change back after 21 years in the State already has a consensus. Even the CDU, which had long championed the G8, changed its mind during the election campaign.

In general, education policy has already become the main battleground between the former coalition partners SPD and CDU. Thus, the first law passed by the new state parliament was more than just a law, but rather a show of force by the new SPD government – the amendment of the so-called School Codetermination Law. At first glance, it is a question of detail, namely the degree of involvement of school social workers. At second glance, however, it was a demonstration in the direction of the CDU, because the new version consisted above all of a revision of all the points that the CDU had prevented a few months earlier in the grand coalition.

We already notice that the political tectonics of the country are changing. After 23 years in government, the CDU is naturally still looking for a role in the opposition. With Stephan Toscani, hitherto president of the Landtag, she has a new president, but she is still struggling significantly with the crushing defeat at the end of March.

Self-confidence is great

The future of ex-Prime Minister Tobias Hans, once a CDU shooting star, is still unclear. He is currently a member of the state parliament. If the AfD was able to form a parliamentary group from its three deputies, the Saarland party remains much more concerned about itself than elsewhere. The Left, the Greens and the FDP failed to enter the state parliament anyway.

And so, on the left side of this tripartite parliament, there is an SPD faction with 29 members, only a good handful of whom have parliamentary experience. Self-confidence is high, but it remains to be seen to what extent the parliamentary group will demonstrate this self-confidence vis-à-vis its own government. In that regard, it should also be exciting to see how Rehlinger finds his way into his new mid-term role.

Hardly anyone had doubted her suitability as a specialist politician in the past, but her new role as head of government is different. And so it got surprisingly quiet for some people in the country, at least as far as Ford is concerned; she left communication mainly to her successor. For the past few days, she has been on a summer tour across the country. Beautiful pictures in beautiful places.

Challenger’s Campaign Story

It’s also part of the new office, but only partially matches the campaign narrative of the challenger, who, unlike his predecessor Hans, goes where it hurts. And so, after 100 days, the realization remains that the true test for SPD is yet to come. Then, when the big stakes of structural change do not only concern energy transition and energy transition, it is about the real room for maneuver that a single government has in the dampness of the Saar.

And with regard to additional funds, the question will also arise of Rehlinger’s influence in Berlin. Because without new debts, the tasks of the country will be difficult to manage. But perhaps even this admission is one of the clearest innovations of this SPD government, after years in which the black zero was the main premise of government action in Saarland. What this scope will be, and above all: how the Rehlinger government will use it, this should be the real indicator of this unique government in Germany.

Source www.tagesschau.de

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