Originally appeared at A-specto, translated by Borislav exclusively for SouthFront
Angela Merkel’s coalition partners from SPD criticized the current policy and nominated Martin Schulz for the post of Federal Chancellor.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the subject of increasingly strong attacks in the domestic scene. After her controversial refugee policy contributed to the rise of the far-right party “Alternative for Germany” Merkel received another blow – this time from the left. The leader of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Minister of Economy in Merkel’s cabinet, Sigmar Gabriel, surprisingly accused the Chancellor’s policy, which according to him caused a deep crisis in the European Union and contributed to Germany’s isolation in the world. Gabriel, who was expected to be nominated by the Social Democrats for the post of federal chancellor, withdrew from the race in favor of the former head of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, and he suggested that Schulz should head the party. The minister in Merkel’s government supported Schultz, arguing that his “decades-long opposition vs far-right populism and his commitment to social justice, democracy and unity in Europe” contrasted with the actions of Angela Merkel, which he says led to the rise of Eurosceptic parties across Europe. “She, along with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, is responsible for the division in the European Union” stated Sigmar Gabriel, adding that “no German chancellor before Merkel risked such great economic, social and political divisions in the EU”.
Gabriel decision to retreat in favor of Schultz, whose candidacy for chancellor is expected to be approved by the Social Democrats on Sunday, can be partially explained by the unfavorable positions that the economic minister has in the polls. According to a recent survey of the “Emind” Institute, Gabriel loses to Merkel in preference by about 20 percentage points. Asked about how they would vote if Martin Schulz was candidate for chancellor, respondents give Chancellor Merkel a lead of only 1% – 39% for Merkel vs 38% for Schultz – a result that can be easily switched in the election campaign.
Martin Schulz’s nomination for Chancellor of Germany by the CDU/CSU coalition partner the SPD, is bad news for Angela Merkel. The former President of the European Parliament is known for liberal and progressive views on the rights of religious, ethnic, sexual and other minorities, as well as support for migration, free trade with North America and the federalization of Europe. Many of these ideas are shared by Merkel herself. Unlike the leader of the German right however, Martin Schulz embarks on a race without his reputation casting doubts due to a failed policy, as is often mentioned about the German Chancellor.
At the same time, Angela Merkel has come under increasing pressure from other political parties in the Bundestag. “The Left” party led by Sahra Wagenknecht, which continues to expand its influence, along with resurgent far-right forces like “Alternative for Germany” supported their demands for the resignation of the Chancellor for her economic policy failure and the migrant crisis. Recently, the very existence of the political union supporting Angela Merkel – the CDU/CSU came into question. The leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU) Horst Seehofer made an ultimatum to the German chancellor, for the introduction of a limit on the intake of refugees. In an interview with DPA at the end of 2016, Seehofer threatened that unless a limit of 200,000 immigrants per year is imposed, the CSU will come out in opposition.
The complicated international and domestic political situation does not leave wide room for maneuvers before Angela Merkel in case she decides to fight for a fourth term as Federal Chancellor. The emerging triumph of the French right – whether the winner will be Marine Le Pen or Francois Fillon – and the rise of “Alternative for Germany” will most likely force Merkel to radical change her migrant policy. The inability to beat Martin Schulz in the field of liberal social policies could force Merkel to change her rhetoric, riding the rise of the conservative wave. In the event that this scenario is realized, it means in the coming months until the election we could observe an altered German stance on key issues such as the refugee wave, the power of supranational bodies such as the European institutions, and the policy towards Russia. In such a scenario priority would be given for policies aimed at national sovereignty – strengthening financial, military and political independence. The first signals for this would be support for the French right candidate Francois Fillon, by Merkel’s cabinet.
In the Monday, January 23, Francois Fillon held a second meeting in a row within a month, with Chancellor Angela Merkel. During his visit to Berlin, Fillon had the opportunity to meet with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. According to him the future of the European Union must be built on cooperation between France and Germany. His statement after the meeting with Merkel, made it clear that strengthening military capabilities so that Europe relies less on NATO and limiting the influence of the European Commission in monetary policy at the expense of national governments, were topics of discussion with the German Chancellor. By his own account, Francois Fillon tried to convince Angela Merkel that the sanctions against Russia are meaningless and cooperation with Moscow should continue.
Merkel faces hard times that threaten to throw her out of big politics. According to many experts, she is facing a fateful decision – to give up the policy of recent years and recognize many of her political decisions as erroneous, or be swept away by the changes on Europe’s doorstep. As shown by the events in Crimea, the choice of Donald Trump and Brekzit, these changes appear without waiting for the opinion of the European ruling elites. Whether Chancellor Merkel risks being thrown into unfamiliar waters, or will be swept away by the tide, will become clear in the elections this fall.