Spd party conference in bonn: narrow majority in favor of negotiations

After a long discussion, the SPD party conference votes with a good 56 percent in favor of coalition negotiations with the CDU/CSU.

Faction leader and party chairman take note of the vote Photo: reuters

Kevin Kuhnert walks with determined steps past the three big red letters SPD to the lectern. 1:09 p.m., silence falls in Room Geneva at the World Conference Center in Bonn. Kuhnert, the leader of the revolt against a new grand coalition, gets going.

"I have always said that we negotiated well." He emphasizes the common ground, is matter-of-fact, not sharp. Kuhnert criticizes the "insane U-turns since the election, which have cost us trust." And why was the exploratory result only "excellent" when it was "picked to pieces" by many in the SPD leadership shortly thereafter?

That’s a jab at Martin Schulz. The SPD chairman had praised the exploratory talks to the skies. "We’re in an endless loop of not wanting the Groko, but always continuing to make it," Kuhnert said. "We have to end that." When Kuhnert finishes, many delegates cheer. They like him, their rebel – but they skip the revolt. The SPD will enter coalition negotiations with the CDU/CSU. But it has new conditions. That is the essence of the decision made by the 642 delegates in Bonn on Sunday. 362 voted in favor of starting coalition negotiations. That’s 56.4 percent.

A no vote would probably have bowled Schulz out of office. The rest of the SPD leadership, which had united behind the exploratory paper, would also have been damaged. New elections would have been on the cards. These shocks are now absent. Instead: The Groko show goes on. It was actually foreseeable early on that the Groko supporters around Martin Schulz would prevail.

Top with closed ranks

Shortly before the party conference, the SPD leadership amended its main motion and included conditions – the bridge for the skeptics is in place. There must be "concretely effective improvements" compared to the exploratory result, is the compromise formula.

Even the overture was cleverly planned. Malu Dreyer, the popular prime minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, opened the SPD party conference. Dreyer has long been an avowed skeptic of the Groko; she campaigned for a minority government of the CDU/CSU. Now she is allowed to justify her change of heart in detail.

The SPD leadership is united in favor of coalition negotiations anyway: Manuela Schwesig, Karl Lauterbach, Ralf Stegner, Andrea Nahles, Olaf Scholz, Stephan Weil. Schwesig at least notes self-critically that the SPD leadership was sometimes wrong due to its own incompetence and was completely unprepared when Jamaica failed.

But no SPD celebrities made a counter-speech. So the procedure – the control by party congress and at the end the base vote on the coalition agreement – suggests that the no vote is possible. The staging of this party conference speaks a different language. It follows the choreography of approval. Thus, the cheers for Kuhnert were loud, those for Martin Schulz restrained. But it is a minority that cheers and claps so loudly. And it’s not a victorious approval – it’s more like letting off steam, a valve that lowers the pressure in the pot.

Convinced skeptics set the stage

It’s typical social democratic: first loudly against, then quietly for. Most speakers are skeptical about whether it’s worth continuing to negotiate. But the critics’ tone is subdued. Many emphasize that they also respect the reasons of the yes-men. Ex-Juso leader Johanna Ueckermann is generally critical of continued grand coalitions. Sharp attacks on Martin Schulz’s lurching course? Not at all.

The No-Groko faction seems to already anticipate its defeat – and to be preparing for it. After all, they’ll have to get along with each other on Monday. Only Andrea Nahles, who is adamantly in favor of government participation, is talking herself into a rage, as if she were still the head of the Young Socialists: "The citizens," she shouts into the hall, would "flip us the bird" if the SPD did not enter the government.

At 4 p.m., shortly before the vote, Thorsten Schafer-Gumbel, Hesse’s SPD leader, is the last speaker to make a thoughtful plea for a yes vote. He was the only one to abstain in the exploratory talks. If anything, he can convince waverers. "Coalition negotiations will be difficult," he says. Groko skeptics Malu Dreyer and Schafer-Gumbel at the beginning and end of the debate – it’s the perfect dramaturgy for the pro faction.

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