Forming a government with Merkel's party would make the far-right Alternative für Deutschland the official opposition. Schulz must keep them outby Steve Bloomfield / September 24, 2017 / Leave a comment
When Martin Schulz returned to Germany to become the Social Democratic Party (SPD) candidate for chancellor, he probably didn’t expect it to turn out like this. Sure, an election victory was unlikely, but up against an opponent like Angela Merkel—who, while popular, was asking for a fourth term in office—the former president of the European Parliament probably thought he could give it a decent go.
And for a while, he did. Tacking left, echoing the economic populism of that other bearded 60-something, Jeremy Corbyn, Schulz was running Merkel close. At the height of the Schulz surge, he even, briefly, held a lead in the polls. Since then, he has sunk like a stone. If the current opinion polling is correct, the SPD could win its lowest percentage of the vote since reunification in 1990.
One of the reasons for the SPD’s unpopularity is its presence in a grand coalition with Merkel’s CDU/CSU. As in most coalitions, it’s the junior partner that suffers most at the polls.
Yet the SPD could be tempted, even after a catastrophic defeat, to join the government once again. Merkel, who will be under pressure from her own union’s more extreme elements to move further to the right, may well see the SPD’s presence in a fresh coalition government as a chance to rule more from the centre ground. Schulz, sensing the move’s unpopularity, has promised to give his members a vote on whether the party joins a coalition.