Last weekend in Munich. Several dozen members of the SPD parliamentary group met at a hotel in Freisinger Hof in the north of the city. You belong to the Zeheimer circle, the conservative wing. Together with the Left Party, they form the second mainstream. They are Olaf Scholz’s fiercest supporters in parliament, his fan club if you will.
The people of Zeheim like to call their approach pragmatic and generally act quietly and calmly. The two-day retreat concerns internal and external security. The war in Ukraine changed the situation in the world. The parliamentarians are upset not only because of the war, but also because of its consequences.
Citizens in their constituencies present them with their energy bills, suddenly multiplying advance payments, sometimes absurdly high amounts. “The hut is burning,” says one of the residents of Zeheim. It doesn’t take long for this tension to ease during the closed-door meeting.
This happens, according to several SZ participants, when Wolfgang Schmidt, the head of the chancellor and close associate of Scholz, is connected to the MPs. It is about dealing with the crisis. The chancellor refers to the three aid packages with a total volume of almost 100 billion euros, which were launched by the traffic light. But that’s not enough for the Munich tour, for many of the Seiheimers. They want to assure their supporters in the constituencies that the threshold of the price of energy carriers is coming, so that the citizens pay only a part of the increased costs.
The concept of this is already forming for electricity, but for gas and heating costs, everything is different. Traffic light partners only agreed to create a group of experts. With a cap on gas prices, the state would probably have to step in with billions of euros if that were to happen. This in turn could mean that Finance Minister Christian Lindner of the FDP cannot follow through on the debt ban and will have to abandon one of his key promises.
The chancellor wants to wait until the state elections.
On October 9, the new state parliament will be elected in Lower Saxony. The FDP is six times seven percent in the polls. It probably wouldn’t be without consequences for the election if Lindner had to adjust his policies. Could it be that the chancellor is taking the state election into account and is therefore not coming to further decisions sooner? This is exactly the impression that several participants have in Schmidt’s words.
They unanimously confirm that the chancellor also has an eye on the elections and the situation of the FDP. Scholz and Schmidt are concerned about keeping the coalition together in this difficult situation. It wouldn’t help anyone if the store was torn down, that was Schmidt’s message. And. Further announcements are not expected for now. When asked by SZ, Schmidt said that he does not comment on internal meetings.
The mood is described by the participants as “stormy”. Holger Becker is a Member of Parliament from Jena, he himself founded a company. He knows the situation. The company he co-founded, for example, will have to pay 100,000 euros a month for electricity instead of the previous 20,000 euros. Such price increases have caused existential difficulties for companies. Citizens see a “wave” piled up in front of them, “and they don’t know how to deal with this situation.”
If it were up to Becker, Scholz would have to step up and “immediately commit to an energy price cap for electricity and gas.” “An obligation that ensures security.” He and other MPs reflect on the appearance of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Per Steinbrück (SPD) as they assured worried citizens during the 2008 banking crisis that their savings were safe. “What we need now is the chancellor’s speech, which is what is required,” Becker said. Election dates “should not play any role”. Schmidt, they say, felt a real headwind in Munich.
The debate now spanned the entire group that met on Tuesday. “Even if the created expert commission is still clarifying the details of the application of the gas price limit, the federal government and the minister of economic affairs should already commit to the establishment of the gas price limit,” says Jessica Rosenthal. SZ, Juso’s boss, on the left in the MP group wing. Parliament Secretary Katya Mast said on Wednesday. “We need a quick solution.”