On the 3rd of July the two German Christian democratic parties, the Christian Democratic Union, CDU, and the Christian Social Union, CSU, presented their common electoral manifesto for the federal election that will take place on 24th of September 2017. The document is titled “For a Germany that is good to live in” (Für ein Deutschland, in dem wir gut und gerne leben). The CSU added a “Plan for Bavaria” (Bayernplan) that is not considered in this paper.
The German Christian democrats are the leading parties in government for the last 12 years. Within these years they lead government in different coalition settings; first with the Social democrats, then with the Liberals and then again with the Social democrats. Under leadership of federal chancellor Angela Merkel the German economy recovered significantly und proved to be resistant against different crises (e.g. financial market crisis and state debt crisis). The heaviest present challenges for Germany are the integration of some hundred thousands of refugees who came to the country since 2015 into the German society. Moreover, Germany has to get prepared in order to meet the requirements of an increasingly digitalized world. Together with the warranty of internal security and the prevention from terrorism these fields will be the main tasks of the coming years.
A large majority of roughly 80 per cent of the Germans say that Germany is a country in which they feel good and safe. Nevertheless, life should become better, so the Christian democrats. Beside the efforts to improve internal security (see next point), to integrate refugees and immigrants into German society and to promote progress in other policy areas, more convenience for the citizens in contacts with state is one of the main goals of German Christian democrats. They advocate a digital citizen’s portal with that each citizen can carry out all necessary transactions with state authorities anytime and anywhere. Together with the efforts to increase Germany’s digital infrastructure (see "General economy") this public service is designed to make life more convenient.
In order to uphold internal security, the German Christian democrats announce 15.000 additional police forces at federal and state level. Moreover, the Christian democrats advocate an increase of video surveillance and longer periods of time for the storage of data. If necessary, the German Christian democrats are in favour for the usage of the federal armed forces under leadership of the police.
Economically the Christian democrats focus primarily on the challenges of a more and more digitalized world. The Christian democrats are committed to promote a country-wide supply of high-speed internet (50 Mbit/sec) and a 5G standard, in order to enable especially small and medium-sized enterprises, craftsmen and farmers to connect with their business partners and customers. For founders the Christian democrats will provide tax breaks.
The German Christian democrats are committed to a balanced state budget. Therefore, they do not promise comprehensive tax breaks. According to the party’s manifesto the maximum tax rate of 42 per cent of total income should be left untouched, while the gross income limit for the maximum rate goes up from 54.056 EUR per year to 60.000 EUR p.a. for singles and 120.000 for couples. The solidarity tax which was introduced to finance the costs for German unification and rebuilding the infrastructure in eastern Germany shall be abandoned during in the next electoral term. The Christian democrats reject to (re)introduce a property tax. By and large, the CD parties are not heading for significant changes in taxation.
Labour market policies
The German CDs emphasize the need for skilled workers. They encourage young students not only to take university careers but also to engage in skilled non-academic work. If necessary, the German CDs are in favour for the migration of skilled workers from abroad into the German labour market and German society. After the CDs accepted the initiative of Social democrats to introduce a minimum wage, wage formation and other labour market regulations should be negotiated between the tariff partners, i.e. employer associations and unions.
Social protection and welfare state
Traditionally, the public old-age pension scheme is an important and sensitive policy topic in Germany. Pensioners expect stable or rising pensions, due payers expect not too heavy burdens while some politicians talk about rising poverty among the elderly and promise generous payments. In that context, the German CDs want to keep up the status quo that was introduced with a greater reform of the system in 2007: stable dues, a stable pension level with regular increases, and a regular entrance age with 67 years.
Promotion of families
In the past, large efforts have been made by all German governments in order to encourage young people to start a family. In its recent programme the German CDs promise to increase the child benefit by 25 EUR per child and month. If young families want to buy property for their own goods (apartments, houses) they will be supported by an additional “construction child benefit” of 1.200 EUR per child and year over a time span of ten years. In order to reconcile work and family, the CDs promote the right of parents to return to their job position they had before starting a family.
Basically, education falls into the responsibility of the German states. Yet, in order to balance structural differences between the states and to promote national standards in education the central state relieves the states from high expenditures in the educational infrastructure. Therefore, the German CDs are committed to the building of schools and of day care facilities. Moreover, the CD parties are heading for the introduction of country-wide learning-content which should be made available for teachers in a so-called e-Cloud. Additionally, the CD parties wish to improve the student’s knowledge as users of internet-based media.
Germany’s global responsibility
The CD parties recognize that Germany as one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations is expected by its allies and needy countries to take over more international responsibility as mediator in conflicts, as donor in order to reduce poverty and related diseases and as a reliable ally in peace-keeping military missions. The parties accept the requirement to increase the expenditures for development cooperation and for defence in accordance with global expectations and national needs.
Concerning their positions on Europe, German CDs offer a combination of long-standing and new commitments. They see Europe not only as a community of shared values but also as a defence community that is challenged by different external threats. Consequently they demand more common efforts in order to take care for Europe’s defence.
The German CDs emphasise the need to protect the European borders from illegal migration as well as to fight human trafficking. They recognise the need for a human care for refugees already in northern Africa and countries of origin and for solidarity among EU member states in order to share burdens related to the massive influx of refugees.
Economically the German CDs underline that the Eurozone shall be durably stable without bailout. Moreover pledge to act in solidarity with European neighbours in order to fight their problems with high (youth) unemployment.
Politically, the German CD parties are against a full EU-membership of Turkey. Related to the Brexit, the German CDs want to uphold close relationships to the UK although they emphasise that “exit means exit”.
Continuity and new issues
All in all, we can state a quite high degree of continuity in the German CDs positions. Since the overall economy runs well and the majority of Germans feel satisfied with their life, politics and the institutions of the state, this comes as no surprise. No one has reason to change a well working system.
Continuity is most strikingly in the position of the federal chancellor. Angela Merkel is running for the fourth time as federal chancellor. Generally she is recognized and valued by a large proportion of German voters as a guarantor for domestic and international stability and a reliable crises manager.
In the fields of taxation, welfare state politics, and especially in the field of old-age pensions, and politics related to the EU we can state a high degree of continuity. Germany is a reliable partner in the EU and will be in future.
New and modified issues
Changes and advances are to be stated in the fields of internal security, the fight against terrorism, the integration of refugees, the global management of refugee movement and the challenges of a digital world. All these fields have changed significantly over the last years and force the parties to find good answers. The German Christian democrats face these new challenges and offer proposals for solution or effective management. On the evening of September 24 we will see how many Germans found these convincing.