Does SPD have a chance of winning with Schulz?

The SPD officially designated Martin Schulz as its candidate against Angela Merkel in Germany's parliamentary elections. Recent polls show that Schulz is gaining support for his party, which has jumped up three points to 24 percent. The polls also show that if the chancellor were directly elected to office the ex-president of the European Parliament would garner 41 percent of the vote - as much as Merkel. This prompts the press to re-examine Schulz's chances of success.

Open/close all quotes
Der Standard (AT) /

Schulz's weaknesses will soon become apparent

The SPD's joy over the nomination of Martin Schulz may soon turn into disappointment, Der Standard suspects:

“The songs of praise for Schulz also show how urgently this once so proud party needs a beacon of hope. After three years as Angela Merkel's junior partner it is despondent and disheartened because its approval ratings stubbornly refuse to go up. And then along comes Schulz and all of a sudden the SPD isn't quite neck and neck with the CDU but Schulz is catching up on the question of directly elected candidates. … But once [all the excitement] dies down and everyday life catches up, the weaknesses will also become apparent: for example that Schulz has no say in the Bundestag and that for many he stands for the Europe they so despise. Above all it's unclear what course he will take in domestic policy. 'Saint Martin' will soon have to come up with a few concrete concepts.”

Pravda (SK) /

A new face isn't enough

Simply changing the face of its leader won't guarantee that the SPD can make a new start, Pravda points out:

“Perhaps Schulz is trying to play the same chords as Jeremy Corbyn in Britain or Bernie Sanders in the US. In combination with Benoît Hamon, who won the French Socialist primaries, that would be good news for Europe. But Schulz is neither a Corbyn nor a Sanders nor a Hamon. He doesn't stand for the left wing of the SPD but for its mainstream. ... The SPD needs more than just a new face for it to once more represent an alternative. The party acted as midwife in the phase that made Germany the world champion in exports. At the same time, however, the Germans experienced ever increasing social inequality. Does the party now want to shake off this legacy and revitalise its old visions, or just to improve its standing in the polls? It's hard to believe that the former is the case.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

A tough rival for Merkel

Schulz is indeed a serious challenge for Merkel and the CDU, Lidové noviny counters:

“Merkel knew all of his predecessor Sigmar Gabriel's weaknesses. What's more, as vice-chancellor Gabriel had to remain loyal. Schulz, by contrast, is free to launch attacks on Merkel from positions outside of government and parliament. ... He is highly popular among SPD members and is considered an authentic Social Democrat. The former president of the European Parliament has clearly distanced himself from the policy of budget cuts that are above all associated with Merkel, not only in Germany but also in the debtor states of the Eurozone. Schulz calls this course neoliberal and has repeatedly defended the Greeks against it, for example - and opposed Berlin in the process.”

El País (ES) /

A duel between two high-calibre politicians

With Schulz and Merkel two high-calibre politicians of a type that has become rare in European politics are pitted against each other, El País observes:

“Martin Schulz, the man who will try to beat Merkel, is an energetic politician, more talented than those who have so far represented the Social Democrats in the coalition. He has been far less involved in the politics of his own country because he has pursued an international career for the past 20 years. … At any rate in view of the mess Europe currently finds itself in, it is striking that only one country has two people capable of dominating the political stage to such an extent. Yes, it's Germany; yes, many fear a Europe dominated by Germany, but if others prefer to stay in the background - look at the rifts in France, the problems in Italy, Spain's minimal contribution and the low profile of the European Commission - it's better that at least someone takes the reins.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

A good candidate at second glance

As a fresh candidate and a convinced European Schulz is a good choice for the SPD, the taz writes in delight:

“With Martin Schulz, the SPD has not chosen the strongest candidate according to the old logic. It has avoided making the Clinton mistake and sent a new candidate into the race. Unike Merkel, Sigmar Gabriel and [Green Party leaders] Özdemir and Göring-Eckardt, Schulz isn't a permanent fixture in the German capital. He has at least a small chance of becoming chancellor because he's less involved in the grand coalition than the major players. Martin Schulz has a strong story to tell, one that lends him charisma: from alcoholic to mayor of Würselen and then president of the European Parliament. He's the only person to have held this office who's known to the public at all. Schulz can't but campaign for an open Europe in this first year of Trump's presidency. That's something.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Hardly a chance, but still worth a try

Sigmar Gabriel's decision not to run for chancellor is good news but no guarantee of success for the SPD, Der Standard comments:

“Gabriel, who after Willy Brandt has chaired the party for the longest period of time, has stepped down and wants to transfer to the Foreign Office because he hasn't been able to bring his party to power in his eight years in office. That makes sense: what could he have said to convince people that he has a chance of becoming chancellor? When you consider the alternatives Martin Schulz is a good choice, because he's popular and a good campaigner. What's more, he comes from Brussels - from the outside - and hasn't been part of Merkel's cabinet in recent years. For that reason he can attack her with more credibility. That said, Schulz tends to be associated with the party's right wing: a coalition of the SPD, Green Party and Left Party is hardly conceivable under his leadership. Nevertheless his candidacy comes as a liberation, according to the motto: You hardly stand a chance, but you might as well try.”

More opinions

The Guardian (GB) / 26 January 2017
  SPD has a real chance with Schulz at the helm