How effective is the government

Data analysis : How effectively does the federal government work?

Berlin - What is the Federal Chancellor actually doing? The extensive absence of Angela Merkel in the major debates that have moved federal politics in recent weeks is already ready for cabaret. The ZDF satirical program “heute Show” recently started with this very question: What is the Chancellor actually doing? Then the camera panned into the audience and showed a lady in a red blazer: Angela Merkel, watching with interest and eating popcorn. It was, of course, a chancellor actress who was sitting there. But everyone understood the message: Angela Merkel has gone from being a politician to a bystander.

The feeling that nothing is progressing in politics, that the coalition of CDU / CSU and SPD is involved in endless negotiations on odds and ends and that nothing can be achieved is widespread. But is that actually true? Is that fair?

Our data analysis has produced surprising results. The bottom line is that the four governments that Angela Merkel has led since 2005 have been harder and faster than any of their predecessors. At least if you take their legal work as a yardstick. That is a decisive criterion, because with laws, politics uses election programs, promises and necessities to form binding foundations for all of our lives in the Federal Republic.

Two thirds of the coalition promises implemented

Fast and hard-working, this also applies to the current government, even though its starting conditions were so bad. Almost half a year passed between the federal elections in September 2017 and Merkel's re-election as Chancellor in March 2018, and it has not taken that long to form a government. After the failure of the Jamaica coalition negotiations between the CDU / CSU, FDP and the Greens, an arduous process began until the Social Democrats reluctantly agreed to an alliance with the Union again. How should successful government work begin under such conditions?

But that is exactly what has been achieved, at least according to the paper form, if you look at the number of laws passed and the points from the coalition agreement that have been ticked off as completed.

According to a study by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Berlin Social Science Center, the grand coalition has already implemented or at least tackled two thirds of its 296 coalition promises in the first 18 months of its government work. At the end of September, 48 percent of the promises were fully fulfilled, four percent partially, and another 14 percent tackled. That should be a record-breaking mid-term result. But where does the coalition's bad reputation come from?

Number of laws says nothing about quality

There is so much small and small, little trend-setting, what the government produces, say critics. Let's look at some of their resolutions. The minimum wage, the Hartz IV rates and child benefit have all been increased. The health insurance contribution is again paid in equal parts by employers and employees. Part-time employees have the right to be able to work full-time again later. You can now register your car online. The federal states receive 5.5 billion euros from the federal government to expand childcare and make it free of charge for more parents. And so on and so on, right up to the legislative package from autumn that is supposed to advance climate protection in Germany.

But this is precisely where a problem can be identified: The number of laws does not say anything about their quality. For many, the climate measures are too half-hearted, for others they go too far. In very few cases there is a unanimous opinion about laws, which, moreover, are always compromises in coalition governments, in which no party can implement its ideas one hundred percent.

It is also often the case that laws take a long time to take effect, such as the social reforms of Agenda 2010 decided by the red-green government of Gerhard Schröder. At that time, they met with massive protests, mainly because of the Hartz IV regulations for the unemployed and cost Schröder the office. Today it is largely undisputed that essential parts of the agenda were a prerequisite for Germany's economic upswing in the past 15 years - but that the Hartz laws were of poor quality.

Feelings play a bigger role than facts

The reason for the poor reputation of this fourth Merkel government, which is actually functioning so effectively, should therefore not lie in its legislative work, which it reliably pushes forward every Wednesday in its cabinet meetings. Here feelings play a bigger role in perception than facts. Of course, it is also true that what does not succeed attracts much more attention. The months of tussle over the basic pension alone creates an image of the coalition's inability to act and lack of leadership.

Merkel's success was initially based on the principle she proclaimed: We adopt a policy of small steps. That was well received after the cocky demeanor of the macho men Gerhard Schröder and Joschka Fischer. But it is clear to many people today that the time of small steps, of turning small screws, is over. Globalization, digitization and climate change are complex challenges that call for large concepts, for an idea for the future of the country. Just this week, the Federal Constitutional Court declared the cuts provided for in the law for recipients of Hartz IV benefits unconstitutional - after almost 15 years.

Right now those parties are successful that have such a narrative that gives an idea of ​​where to go. The AfD, for example, promises a return to an intact, manageable past, a kind of homeland film with happy people and good German values. The story of the Greens is about the departure into a promising future in which economy and ecology are reconciled, solar energy and e-cars stop climate change. These are attractive narratives for people on both sides of the political spectrum.

But what does Angela Merkel's CDU have to offer? Little more than a hard-working: keep it up. And yet the actual quality of her reign can only be assessed with a greater margin.