Merkel or Schulz - who will win?
SPD chancellor candidate Martin Schulz has called Germany's Agenda 2010 reforms into question: his campaign will focus on corrections to the social reforms introduced under the SPD-Green Party government between 2003 to 2005. Among other things Schulz plans to extend unemployment benefits. Can he beat Chancellor Merkel with this strategy? And what role will refugee policy play in the campaigning?
Space for new ideas in Germany
Since the SPD chancellor candidate's proposals for reforming Agenda 2010 Germany is finally discussing something other than immigration, Financial Times comments approvingly:
“Whether or not one agrees with Mr Schulz’s proposals, his willingness to address the issues is welcome. There is space for new ideas in German politics after 12 years of coalitions led by Angela Merkel, who, for all her international leadership, has not initiated serious domestic reform in the past few years. Public debate should also shift from the poisonous area of immigration and identity and on to the economic issues that contribute to popular discontent. That is the only way for Europe’s centre-left parties to restore credibility with working-class voters and reinvent themselves as a real force of opposition.”
Schulz relying on backward-looking policies
By focusing on social justice in his election campaign Schulz is trying to turn back the hands of time, Die Welt believes:
“What the Social Democrats want is to rule the country once more. The fact that that means jeopardising Germany's hard-fought competitiveness and sustainability doesn't seem to have occurred to the SPD strategists - or they couldn't care less. ... Nevertheless voters should recognise that Schulz's backward-looking policies cannot be the answer to today's challenges. The digitisation of the working world and the integration of refugees calls for a more - not less - flexible labour market. Already the introduction of the minimum wage and restrictions on temporary work have erected major obstacles to employment. Schulz wants Germany to continue down this path. In Italy and France, which have been struggling to emerge from the crisis for years, one can see where such policies lead.”
Merkel's major shortcoming
If Merkel is in danger of not being re-elected it has less to do with the popularity of her rival than with her refugee policy, Lietuvos žinios is convinced:
“Her mistake was letting in hundreds of thousands of refugees. The fact that she's already held the office for twelve years could be another reason for her defeat. With every day that passes the Germans see how Germany is changing because of the refugees. To take just one example: a report broadcast by the popular TV station RTL on a town in northern Germany showed how the newcomers are getting more help and material support than poor unemployed locals. ... There are more and more such examples and many voters are incensed. Will they be willing to help Merkel win a fourth term in the EU's largest country?”
Berlin a rock against the wave of populism
Schulz's popularity shows that Merkel's welcome culture is not what will stop her becoming chancellor again, Jutarnji list counters:
“Europe no longer has to worry about the German election results. Things looked very different not so long ago when it was the far right that was benefiting from Merkel's loss of popularity. The weaker the CDU and Merkel became, the stronger the xenophobic and anti-European AfD grew. But things changed with Schulz's candidacy. The AfD's popularity is waning while that of the Social Democrats is on the rise. Even if the anti-European and xenophobic option does gain votes, the two big parties, the CDU and the SPD, will join forces to govern in the interests of Germany and Europe. We also see now that it wasn't the welcome culture that hurt Merkel, because Schulz also advocates a liberal policy vis-à-vis foreigners and migrants. So there is also a broad consensus on the future of the EU. How reassuring!”