German Elections On The Horizon
While markets are currently focused on the Dutch elections, with voters in the Netherlands taking to the polls today, and then the upcoming French elections on April 23rd, it is easy to forget that Germany will soon also be taking to the polls. Although voting in Germany is a little further of, with the federal election to be held on September 24th, the race has heated up in recent weeks.
Schultz Breathes New Life into SPD
The lead held by the CDU/CSU party over the SPD party has narrowed from 15% to 2% following the nomination of Martin Schultz. The decision by the former President of the European Parliament to leave and run for Chancellor in Germany has caused a surge in support for the Social Democratic Party which are running as the main opponents of Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU.
Schultz is seen as a far more relatable, real-life figure than Merkel with an interesting life-story including having failed to finish high school, struggling with Alcoholism before opening a bookstore and then going on to teach himself six languages. Indeed, recent polls show the popularity of the former European Parliament President reaching as high as 50% while Merkel lingers behind at just 38%.
— DW | Politics (@dw_politics) March 10, 2017
“Make Europe Great Again”
A large portion of Schultz’s popularity is stemming from a social media where fans of the SPD candidate are actively spreading slogans and promotional material to drum up attention such as youtube videos which declare “The Schultz train is rolling”. Fans of Schultz who view him as an anti-Trump are also spreading the acronym MEGA which stands for “Make Europe Great Again”. The slogan is a play on Trump’s own “Make America Great Again” slogan while the poster itself mimics the Obama “Hope” poster.
Immigration Policy In The Spotlight
Angela Merkel has come under sharp criticism over recent years due to her stance on immigration which rivals deem an “open door policy”. In 2015 890,000 people arrived in Germany from Syria, Afghanistan and various African countries. While initially German’s responded warmly to the new arrivals in their country, the mood has now soured with growing protests and in some regions outright xenophobia.
Indeed, many migrants have now been subject to deportation from Germany. However, critics of the deportation push suggest that many of those being deported are hard-working immigrants who play by the rules and so are easier to find and deport than perhaps more sinister elements who simply vanish from the system once they’ve arrived.
Trump Attacks Merkel
Incumbent German Chancellor has also come under attack internationally for her stance on immigration, most notably from US President Donald Trump who deemed her immigration policy a “catastrophic mistake”. The two leaders are expected to discuss Germany’s immigration policy along with a host of other key topics when they meet later this week.
Schultz Speaks Out
A surge in support for SPD and Martin Schultz is an encouraging sign for many Europeans at a time when ultra-nationalism and populism are threatening to take the European Union to the edge. Schultz has already been vocal about his view on the current CSU/CDU collaboration which he calls a “forced marriage” saying that the two parties “don’t talk to each other they talk about each other”. The SPD candidate has also criticised Donald Trump for slandering “those with impairments, disabilities or minorities” and for calling “women’s rights into question”.
Merkel has also been vocal over recent weeks speaking during the Ash Wednesday rallies to say that “The CDU is taking care of the future. The others can focus on the past”. Her comments were aimed at criticism from the SPD about safety in Germany with the Chancellor saying that the CDU helped make Germany one of the safest countries in the world.
Investors will be keen to see how the Dutch elections and upcoming French elections impact sentiment in Germany. The hope is that if centrist parties can prevail there then more extreme, populist views can also be avoided in Germany, providing support for the future of the European Union.