The Week Ahead: 14-20 January 2018

The Week Ahead: 14-20 January 2018

German coalition building. Greek labor protests. Fallout from Trump’s faux pas. Tunisia protests. All in The Week Ahead.

GERMANY: Merkel moves closer to securing an SPD coalition following 16-week stalemate

  • A breakthrough last Friday means Angela Merkel and the CDU/CSU are moving to secure a formal coalition with the SPD, after one of the longest post-war coalition stalemates in German history.
  • Due to the unpopularity of the SPD’s role in previous coalitions to support Merkel and the CDU, many in the SPD (particularly the youth wing) were extremely skeptical of forming yet another coalition. The fact that the Social Democrats’ vote share fell to its lowest level ever (the CDU also saw substantial declines in vote share) also contributed to the notion that tying itself to the CDU in government was untenable to maintaining its own support.
  • But with a new 28-page document between the CDU and SPD, there is renewed optimism that this week a new coalition will be formally agreed. The tentative plans right now include a limitation on asylum seekers, a CDU concession to the SPD that healthcare contributions be made equitable between employers and employees, and lower taxes.

GRI take: Despite optimism at the top, much of the SPD will need substantial convincing ahead of meetings on holding negotiation talks. Several SPD MPs and the youth wing have already poured cold water over the prospect of a deal, meaning the next two weeks will be critical for Merkel to shore up support among the German left to prevent new elections and the potential further erosion of support for the SPD and CDU to the AfD.

GREECE: Protests against changes to labor laws could extend beyond formal vote

  • On Monday, the Greek Parliament is expected to vote on a series of reforms to Greek labor laws. Protests are likely to include metro workers, medical staff (particularly doctors), and shipyard workers, in line with protests that occurred last Friday.
  • One of the major components of the law would limit Greek worker rights to strike, which has led to substantial unease in the labor community in Greece. Anti-austerity Greek communist activists stormed the labor department in Athens last Tuesday, as tensions remain high between the government and workers.
  • Despite this substantial opposition, the reforms are expected to be approved by the Greek parliament as previous reforms were, and the parliament has already fast-tracked a raft of reforms to ensure quick passage (and likely attempt to limit the opportunity for opposition to build).

GRI take: The strikes signal growing unity among working and middle class Greeks in Athens and elsewhere, which could become an electoral problem down the road. A coalition of the working and middle classes could effectively oppose Prime Minister Tsipras, or could show further discontent by electing members of more extreme groups like Golden Dawn at the local and national level.

UNITED STATES: Fallout from Trump’s comments likely to continue to ripple

  • Following President Trump’s comments last week that he didn’t want immigrants from what he referred to as “shithole” countries (namely countries in Africa and Haiti), the response from African nations as well as the rest of the world has continued to build. The African Union has issued an extraordinary press release requesting clarification on Trump’s remarks, and Botswana requested information from the US ambassador on whether Botswana fell under that category.
  • The U.S. ambassador to Panama resigned last Saturday after indicating he was no longer able to represent the Trump administration. And the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Hoekstra faced extensive domestic controversy but stating (while a congressman) that there were parts of the Netherlands that were “no go” zones due to the substantial Muslim populations. He has since apologized but remains under a cloud.

GRI take: The fallout is likely to continue across Africa and the Caribbean, as frustration builds across embassies in Europe, the Americas, and Africa over the behavior of the president and his erratic signals to other nations on policy and posture. This administration is likely to continue hemorrhaging America’s substantial soft power, and comments like this could complicate ongoing security and economic negotiations between the US and countries offended by Trump’s behavior.

TUNISIA: Reforms announced by the government following protests

  • Over the past week, protests have broken out across Tunisia in response to the government’s economic policies. With support from the opposition parties, protests have built up following a decision to raise fuel prices and higher housing taxes in the 2018 national budget.
  • The government has responded with a two-tiered approach: a crackdown on opposition protests and moves to reform. The crackdown has included arrests of over 800 people and a somewhat violent response in Tunis. In addition, the Tunisian government submitted a proposal to reform welfare support for the poor and increase medical care.

GRI take: What remains uncertain is whether opposition parties will be appeased by the proposals, or if protests will fracture in response. Opposition parties and opposition protests may begin to diverge in their approaches, with Tunisian protest leaders indicating they plan to stay out in the streets. Demonstrations are likely to continue this week, but if the opposition parties tone down their rhetoric, the intensity may diminish, with the upcoming May elections presenting another potential flashpoint.

Stay ahead of the news cycle with GRI. Drawing on expert knowledge and local sources, The Week Ahead provides analytical foresight on the consequences of key upcoming political developments.

This edition of The Week Ahead was produced by GRI Senior Analyst Brian Daigle and Senior Editor Luke Iott.

About Author

Brian Daigle

Brian is an energy and Latin America researcher at a political consulting firm in Washington, D.C. He is a London School of Economics (LSE) graduate in political science and political economy, where he focused on trade and transatlantic relations. Brian received his dual BA in political science and history at the University of California-San Diego.