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Work the Switches before Federal Election
Germany’s political landscape is fragmenting
An era of relative stability in Germany’s political landscape is coming to an end. For some
time, traditional party ties have been weakening, especially in Germany’s eastern states –
but increasingly also in the old west. The right-wing populist party AfD (Alternative for
Germany) is benefitting most from this – especially on the back of the refugee crisis. The
ongoing feud between the CDU and its Bavarian sister party CSU over Angela Merkel’s
liberal refugee policy has further played into the AfD’s hands. Weaker party ties have also
led the Greens to unforeseen heights (30.3 percent) in the traditionally CDU-dominated
state of Baden-Württemberg. Here, as well as in Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt,
the changed electoral landscapes have forced political parties to form unprecedented, or
highly unusual, coalitions.
Political certainties are also evaporating at the federal level: Recent polls show that the
federal election in autumn 2017 will see major changes in the Bundestag. Having dropped
out four years ago, the liberal FDP is about to re-enter the federal parliament, while the
AfD is likely to leap above the five-percent threshold for the first time. Meanwhile, the two
larger parties -- CDU/CSU and SPD -- will see losses, so that traditional coalitions
(CDU/CSU and FDP or SPD and Greens) will fall short of majorities of their own. A repeat
of the current grand coalition also seems unlikely: The SPD in particular will be in no
mood for another coalition with the CDU and CSU. Weak as never before, the social
democrats have little appetite to see their support dwindle even further. But conservatives
are also weary of another grand coalition. Recent events in Austria, where a string of grand
coalitions have left the larger parties permanently weakened, serve as a potent warning.
Instead, the first ever black-green coalition at federal level, made up of CDU, CSU and the
Greens, is looming large on the horizon. Leading politicians on both sides have been busy
preparing for it – not only in Baden-Württemberg where the first green-black coalition just
got underway. The electorate seem to be ready to test unchartered black-green waters as
well: According to a recent survey, 48 percent of Germans would support the alliance at
federal level, with only 39 percent opting for other potential coalitions.
Meanwhile, it is highly likely that Angela Merkel will lead the CDU into the election as the
party’s front-runner again. The same is true for the CSU’s veteran-leader Horst Seehofer
and the FDP’s young party chairman Christian Lindner, who has managed to stabilize the
party following its existential crisis in 2013. However, things are much less clear with
regard to the SPD, Greens and AfD. Within the SPD, nobody seems keen to take on Angela
Merkel. Sigmar Gabriel, party leader and deputy chancellor, would be the obvious
candidate, but is unpopular among the electorate and not much liked in his own party. A
number of alternative candidates such as Olaf Scholz, Mayor of Hamburg, have already
ruled themselves out. The Greens will ballot party members to nominate their two front-
runners early next year. Cem Özdemir, one of the two party leaders, is among the hopefuls,
but Green party ballots tend to be unpredictable. Finally, the AfD could be in for a messy
and protracted nomination process, with party leader Frauke Petry increasingly unpopular
and warring factions continuing to fight over the direction of the party.
Page 2
Window of opportunity is closing
Only one year left until political machinery will start stuttering
In roughly a year’s time, the entire political machinery will switch into campaign mode,
and the legislative process will de facto come to a rest. Therefore, anyone wishing the
government to pay attention to a certain issue will need to act now. In particular, this
applies to those issues facing a tough stand should the Greens enter government next
year, such as consumer protection, energy and environmental issues.
Two phases determine next government’s political program
The party manifestos for the election campaigns are being laid in the course of the next
twelve months. It is vital to make one’s positions heard during this time as much as later
on when parties hammer out a coalition agreement after the election. Why? Because the
party manifestos will form the basis for the coalition negotiations. Only starting to
communicate political positions during the negotiations themselves will make it much
harder to get through as one will have to compete with a loud and chaotic chorus of
lobbyists.
Page 3
MSL Germany well-prepared to guide through the political fog
MSL Germany is among the most successful communications consultancies in the
German market. Our Berlin office is well-known for its profound public affairs expertise
and we have been ranked No. 1 in a current ranking of German public affairs agencies
(Pfeffers-Agentur-Ranking 2016).
We are passionate about political communication and see through the fog of Germany’s
diverse and de-centralized regulatory and media landscapes. Benefitting from an
outstanding close-knit political network, we know what makes German policy-makers tick
– offering our clients access to formal and informal decision-making processes.
MSL Germany belongs to MSLGROUP, the world’s fifth largest PR network and Publicis
Groupe’s strategic communications and engagement outfit with a strong public affairs
profile in all global political capitals.
MSL Germany’s senior public affairs team
Axel Wallrabenstein provides strategic consultancy to several of
MSL Germany’s most important public affairs clients. As former
secretary-general of the CDU’s youth wing, Axel has a broad network
across all parliamentary parties and to key civil servants. Axel co-
founded the agency in 1999.
Dr. Wigan Salazar has more than a decade’s experience in consulting
especially international companies on their specific needs vis-à-vis
German politics and media. As a former board member of the largest
state organization of the CDU’s youth wing, Wigan has a particularly
strong network within CDU and CSU and moreover has intense ties
to politicians and operatives from the Greens and the Liberals (FDP).
Christoph Moosbauer is one of the most respected public affairs
advisors in Germany. A former member of the Bundestag for the SPD,
Christoph has more than a decade’s experience in providing high-
level advice for clients across a broad range of industries. Christoph
joined MSL Germany in 2015. Prior to this, Christoph worked for the
consultancy Concilius, which he co-founded.

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MSL Germany: Work the switches before federal election in Germany

  • 1. Page 1 Work the Switches before Federal Election Germany’s political landscape is fragmenting An era of relative stability in Germany’s political landscape is coming to an end. For some time, traditional party ties have been weakening, especially in Germany’s eastern states – but increasingly also in the old west. The right-wing populist party AfD (Alternative for Germany) is benefitting most from this – especially on the back of the refugee crisis. The ongoing feud between the CDU and its Bavarian sister party CSU over Angela Merkel’s liberal refugee policy has further played into the AfD’s hands. Weaker party ties have also led the Greens to unforeseen heights (30.3 percent) in the traditionally CDU-dominated state of Baden-Württemberg. Here, as well as in Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt, the changed electoral landscapes have forced political parties to form unprecedented, or highly unusual, coalitions. Political certainties are also evaporating at the federal level: Recent polls show that the federal election in autumn 2017 will see major changes in the Bundestag. Having dropped out four years ago, the liberal FDP is about to re-enter the federal parliament, while the AfD is likely to leap above the five-percent threshold for the first time. Meanwhile, the two larger parties -- CDU/CSU and SPD -- will see losses, so that traditional coalitions (CDU/CSU and FDP or SPD and Greens) will fall short of majorities of their own. A repeat of the current grand coalition also seems unlikely: The SPD in particular will be in no mood for another coalition with the CDU and CSU. Weak as never before, the social democrats have little appetite to see their support dwindle even further. But conservatives are also weary of another grand coalition. Recent events in Austria, where a string of grand coalitions have left the larger parties permanently weakened, serve as a potent warning. Instead, the first ever black-green coalition at federal level, made up of CDU, CSU and the Greens, is looming large on the horizon. Leading politicians on both sides have been busy preparing for it – not only in Baden-Württemberg where the first green-black coalition just got underway. The electorate seem to be ready to test unchartered black-green waters as well: According to a recent survey, 48 percent of Germans would support the alliance at federal level, with only 39 percent opting for other potential coalitions. Meanwhile, it is highly likely that Angela Merkel will lead the CDU into the election as the party’s front-runner again. The same is true for the CSU’s veteran-leader Horst Seehofer and the FDP’s young party chairman Christian Lindner, who has managed to stabilize the party following its existential crisis in 2013. However, things are much less clear with regard to the SPD, Greens and AfD. Within the SPD, nobody seems keen to take on Angela Merkel. Sigmar Gabriel, party leader and deputy chancellor, would be the obvious candidate, but is unpopular among the electorate and not much liked in his own party. A number of alternative candidates such as Olaf Scholz, Mayor of Hamburg, have already ruled themselves out. The Greens will ballot party members to nominate their two front- runners early next year. Cem Özdemir, one of the two party leaders, is among the hopefuls, but Green party ballots tend to be unpredictable. Finally, the AfD could be in for a messy and protracted nomination process, with party leader Frauke Petry increasingly unpopular and warring factions continuing to fight over the direction of the party.
  • 2. Page 2 Window of opportunity is closing Only one year left until political machinery will start stuttering In roughly a year’s time, the entire political machinery will switch into campaign mode, and the legislative process will de facto come to a rest. Therefore, anyone wishing the government to pay attention to a certain issue will need to act now. In particular, this applies to those issues facing a tough stand should the Greens enter government next year, such as consumer protection, energy and environmental issues. Two phases determine next government’s political program The party manifestos for the election campaigns are being laid in the course of the next twelve months. It is vital to make one’s positions heard during this time as much as later on when parties hammer out a coalition agreement after the election. Why? Because the party manifestos will form the basis for the coalition negotiations. Only starting to communicate political positions during the negotiations themselves will make it much harder to get through as one will have to compete with a loud and chaotic chorus of lobbyists.
  • 3. Page 3 MSL Germany well-prepared to guide through the political fog MSL Germany is among the most successful communications consultancies in the German market. Our Berlin office is well-known for its profound public affairs expertise and we have been ranked No. 1 in a current ranking of German public affairs agencies (Pfeffers-Agentur-Ranking 2016). We are passionate about political communication and see through the fog of Germany’s diverse and de-centralized regulatory and media landscapes. Benefitting from an outstanding close-knit political network, we know what makes German policy-makers tick – offering our clients access to formal and informal decision-making processes. MSL Germany belongs to MSLGROUP, the world’s fifth largest PR network and Publicis Groupe’s strategic communications and engagement outfit with a strong public affairs profile in all global political capitals. MSL Germany’s senior public affairs team Axel Wallrabenstein provides strategic consultancy to several of MSL Germany’s most important public affairs clients. As former secretary-general of the CDU’s youth wing, Axel has a broad network across all parliamentary parties and to key civil servants. Axel co- founded the agency in 1999. Dr. Wigan Salazar has more than a decade’s experience in consulting especially international companies on their specific needs vis-à-vis German politics and media. As a former board member of the largest state organization of the CDU’s youth wing, Wigan has a particularly strong network within CDU and CSU and moreover has intense ties to politicians and operatives from the Greens and the Liberals (FDP). Christoph Moosbauer is one of the most respected public affairs advisors in Germany. A former member of the Bundestag for the SPD, Christoph has more than a decade’s experience in providing high- level advice for clients across a broad range of industries. Christoph joined MSL Germany in 2015. Prior to this, Christoph worked for the consultancy Concilius, which he co-founded.