Troubled German gov’t gives itself positive half-term report


German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the weekly cabinet meeting of the German government at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

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BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government awarded itself a good performance report Wednesday, halfway through its term, but it was unclear whether that will be enough to hold the fractious coalition together for another two years.

Merkel’s center-right Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats agreed last year to assess their halftime performance, a novelty that emerged from tortuous talks to form what has become an often bad-tempered coalition of necessity.

“We have achieved and implemented a lot, but a lot also remains to be done,” an 83-page report released after a Cabinet meeting Wednesday said.

Merkel and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz both talked up the government’s performance at a brief appearance in Berlin. Scholz, whose Social Democrats only reluctantly joined the government last year, said that it “makes for a really profound record.”

“Of the 300 major measures we intended to take, we have embarked on or already completed two-thirds,” Merkel said. “This shows that we are capable of working and willing to work.”

The parties in the coalition will now consider the government’s performance separately. It is unclear whether the Social Democrats in particular will be so generous as they assess the past 19 months.

Scholz’s party is expected to consider in December whether to stay in the government. It is currently approaching the end of a months-long leadership campaign after its previous chairwoman resigned in frustration in June.

Scholz, who is also finance minister, is part of one of two would-be leadership duos still in the race. His chances are uncertain against rivals who are more skeptical about the coalition.

Both parties have endured a string of poor results in state and European Parliament elections this year. Discontent is also running high in Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.

Merkel stepped down as CDU leader last year but intends to remain chancellor until the next election, which is currently expected in 2021.

That arrangement has created a leadership vacuum in her party, as new CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has struggled to establish her authority after narrowly winning the job last year. It’s still unclear who will run to succeed Merkel as chancellor.

Fueling the tensions, conservative rival Friedrich Merz last week said the government’s image is “abysmal” and laid into Merkel’s leadership style.

The government has at least shown a talent for poor marketing, with voters tending to associate it with strife. In September, after months of high-profile wrangling, it agreed on a 54 billion-euro ($60 billion) package of measures for tackling climate change that ran into heavy criticism.

At present, it is arguing about a pension reform that prominent Social Democrats have suggested is crucial to the coalition’s future.

The two sides are struggling to find a compromise on a project to top up the pensions of low-paid people who have worked for at least 35 years. The Social Democrats say such payments should be made without means-testing, which the Union insists on.

Wednesday’s report sidestepped the dispute, saying that the pension top-up “should be pinpointed and benefit those who need it.”

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