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The German tech industry's take on the recent governmental elections - a missed opportunity?

Incredible as it may seem the German governmental elections were actually in September and we still have a stalemate. In recent elections there have been three outcomes; a left-green, a conservative-liberal or a grand coalition. Yet this year many things have changed. As the first round of talks just failed, many of the people in the field of startup business are disappointed. We may have missed a big opportunity for Germany here.

But first a very brief summary of the results for everyone that did not follow the German elections in detail.

Majors parties lost voters
Both major parties lost many voters. There has been a rise of the far right party, but also a strong results for the liberals, both of which have drained voters from the big parties. This results in difficult positions for potential coalition partners. Coalitions have been traditionally build by two parties so far (if you count the union of CDU and CSU as one). This time there are only possibilities for bigger coalitions or another grand coalition.

Grand coalition
CDU (conservatives) and SPD (moderate left) built the grand coalition in the last term. Yet after heavy losses the SPD refuses to build another grand coalition. Martin Schulz, chairman of the party, aimed for becoming the next chancellor but had in fact one of the worst results for an election ever in the history of the SPD. As a result the SPD has refused talks about coalitions so far.

Three party coalition
A new type of coalition began to emerge since the grand coalition seems not an option and the traditional coalitions don’t have a majority. It’s a coalition of three the CDU/CSU (conservative), the FDP (liberals) and the Greens (ecological). As they have the colours black, yellow and green, Germans called them the “Jamaica Coalition”.

State of the talks
The first round of coalition talks ended recently with the liberals leaving the exploratory talks. There has been a major disagreement between the liberals and the union on the one side and the greens on the other throughout the whole series of talks. The liberals are now blamed for leaving the talks first. Also they are blamed since they sounded like a startup while their campaign and promoted a new culture where failing is nothing to be blamed for. Yet they ended the talks with the slogan “better not to rule than to do it wrong” (Lieber nicht regieren, als falsch), which is the exact opposite of being brave and accepting challenges and mistakes. There is now, however a chance that the Jamaica coalition could be back on. 

The missed chance
Leaving this lessons of communication aside many actors in the startup economy feel like we missed a chance here. Liberals, as well as the green party, were the two parties who had digitalisation and startups on their agenda. While CDU and SPD tried to serve the traditional sectors of factory workers and the automobile industry, the liberals and greens talked about new fields of work and seemed to understand the needs of less regulation and the necessity of a Broadband Internet access. The IT sector has already surpassed the traditional fields in terms of numbers of employees, but only the small parties realised the change.

At a time where everyone complains about the slow Internet speed and the bad connections, Germany could have started to catch up to other countries. Digitalisation was still only a minor field in the talks but it would have had one of the biggest impacts. Unfortunately we lost ourselves in talks about problems that are more a reaction to recent phenomena, like migration. The talks failed because the parties did not share a vision and tried to find a way, they had a way in mind, and thought there is no need for a vision. You can’t find a compromise if you only defend your position, a common vision would have made that easier.

No need to be sad
At least the campaigns of the liberals and greens have brought up the topic of startups and progress in digitalisation. Even the big parties included the topics last minute in their campaign, but they did not only talk positive about it. The campaign of the liberals in particular will leave a mark in future campaigns of all parties. Finally, after an eternity, Germany has discovered the word digital and it’s not only linked to coding. We may even get a minister, responsible for digitalisation.

All in all we missed a chance, still. But even the campaigns and talks have infused the parties with new ideas. Now we have to wait and see if there will be another round of talks between the three or maybe even a return of the grand coalition. It would have been a sign of being brave and tackle the challenges if we proceeded with the so called Jamaica coalition, now we need to keep up the spirit at least.


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