German Elections: SPD Leader Attacks Merkel As Race Heats Up
The German election race is beginning to heat up as we head into September with Angela Merkel, the current German chancellor, coming under fire from SPD leader Martin Schultz. The new leader of the SPD targeted Merkel in rather a personal way this week accusing her of being “disconnected from reality” and “aloof” as well as attacking her for not confronting Donald Trump when the two leaders met earlier this year.
Have Schultz’s Comments Backfired?
These comments, however, do not seem to have affected Merkel much who is used to coming under fire. As part of her pre-election tour around the country, she has regularly come into contact with anti-immigration and right-wing groups who have ambushed her rallies.
Austrian Newspaper Criticises Schultz’s Approach
SPD leader Schultz has become more popular with the younger voters due to his use of social media and has even been featured in viral youtube videos, so it is possible that his comments are another attempt to engage the younger vote by taking a more aggressive and head-on approach. However, it seems that his comments have not worked well to boost his broader appeal as Austrian newspaper Der Standard have criticised him saying that:
“The SPD makes you want to tear your hair out. Another four weeks till the German Bundestag election, and the Union is about 15 percentage points ahead of the German Social Democrats.”
“But what Schulz offered during the TV debate during the weekend is not the content criticism which should be self-evident in a democracy and is also appreciated because it points out wrongs.“
“Instead, Schulz is now attacking Merkel personally. He accuses her of being disconnected from reality and aloof.” The Austrian newspaper eventually went on to say that Schultz behavior “smells of despair” and “does not harm the one he actually wants to defeat – but rather himself”.
— Vocal Europe (@thevocaleurope) August 30, 2017
These types of personal attacks were a big feature over the course of both the US and UK elections and highlighted a disappointing deterioration in the quality of candidates running for office. Political adviser Martin Spreng notes that these types of tactics are a common occurrence when the debate is not going well for one of the candidates, and there is a need to gain greater attention.
Focus Now Turns to Third Place
What is interesting about the current situation is that he CDU/CSU and SPD could well be in coalition once again this year as the latest polling results show that while the CDU/CSU is ahead (38.6% latest) it does not currently have enough support to gain an outright majority and would, therefore, likely need to form a coalition with the SPD who have second largest polling support (23.6%).
A major part of the focus over this campaign will not be on who comes first or second (as the two major parties are widely expected to retain their standings) but indeed, on who comes third as the smaller parties fight for the slot. The latest polling results suggest that the far-left group Die Linke will take the slot.
This third place slot will be an important symbol for the tide of democracy in Germany as (unlike the two major parties) the differences between these smaller parties is stark; for example between the far left Die Linke and far-right AfD. Although the current polling results suggest that there is very little chance of any of the smaller parties joining government this year, taking third place will increase their presence and boost their support base as the strongest opposition force in the CDU/CSU & SPD coalition.
Die Linke last finished third in 2013 when they missed out on a seat in the Bundestag by only a slim margin. Many political commentators have suggested that the reason for this is mainly due to the dominance of the grand coalition who control around 80% of the seats in parliament.