What does Europe make of the German elections?
In less than four weeks Germany’s federal elections will decide whether Angela Merkel remains chancellor. Europe's press sees Merkel and her CDU heading for victory, but doesn't expect the resulting configuration in parliament to make things easy for her.
Jamaica coalition at the gates
Merkel will have to accept a "Jamaica coalition", comments the weekly paper 168 óra, referring to the black-yellow-green colours of the conservative CDU-CSU, the liberal FDP and the Greens:
“Most people assume that the CDU and CSU will have to accept a coalition with the FDP. In several legislature periods from Adenauer to Kohl, the Union parties ruled together with the liberals. The FDP will once more make the five percent hurdle for seats in the Bundestag, however in all likelihood its expected result of eight to nine percent won't be enough for a majority. That means the Union parties will need another coalition partner, and the Greens, which according to forecasts will achieve seven to eight percent, stand the best chance. And that means that for the first time Germany could be governed by a so-called Jamaica coalition.”
Merkel's refugee policy strengthened the AfD
The major beneficiary of Merkel's refugee policy is the AfD, writes Kapka Todorowa, Germany correspondent for 24 Chasa:
“The Eurosceptic party that was declining in popularity at the start of the refugee crisis saw that crisis as its big chance, and shifted its stance from a movement that originally opposed the euro into one opposing refugees and foreigners. While many Germans complained that everyone who criticised Merkel's refugee policy was immediately branded a populist, the AfD became a serious political force with approval ratings of up to 20 percent in the eastern states - one which could become the third- or even the second-strongest party after the Bundestag elections. The closer these elections come, the more Merkel is shifting her own stance. Once known as the refugee chancellor, she's gradually becoming the deportation chancellor.”
Merkel makes sense of everything
At her summer press conference the chancellor once again showed why she is almost certain to win the election, writes the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:
“As far as it is humanly possible to judge, Angela Merkel will continue to be chancellor after the German election on 24 September. The main reason is the simple fact that Germany is doing better than ever, particularly economically and socially. But a significant factor is also Merkel's famous talent of making things make sense even when they don't fit together at all. How reassuring it is to have a mother of the nation who always brings order and reliability into a world that is essentially so disturbingly incomprehensible.”
Refugee policy is Merkel's weak point
The Social Democrats are having a hard time in the election campaign despite the chancellor's vulnerability on the issue of her refugee policy, Deutschlandfunk observes:
“A head of government who's been in power since 2005 and twelve years later stresses the need for solidarity with Italy and Greece on the question of illegal immigration has clearly made serious mistakes in the past. Even more clear, however, is her attempt to give the impression just a few weeks before the election that Europe is on the right track in stepping up cooperation with countries like Libya, given the Mediterranean route problem. ... The goal of screening asylum seekers in North Africa is riddled with obstacles, to say the least. The prospect of legal immigration paths is being held out. But by whom, for whom, from which countries and to which destinations? None of that is clear.”
Schulz should take off his kid gloves
The Financial Times wonders why the SPD chancellor candidate Martin Schulz hasn't made more of Merkel's political weaknesses:
“He has not confronted the chancellor with tough questions on refugees and integration. ...Mr Schulz has not cornered the chancellor on crime either. Burglaries have increased nationwide under Ms Merkel, regardless of her party’s law and order image and rhetoric. And, last but not least, Mr Schulz has not yet capitalised on the German car industry’s diesel fraud scandal, although SPD voters driving elderly cars are affected. All three issues could be exploited under the broad heading of social justice.”
Why Merkel is popular with the young
The chancellor's unruffled style of consensual management washes well with young Germans, the Daily Telegraph comments:
“Schulz made social justice the centrepiece of his strategy - safe ground for the SPD, certainly, but not exactly a clarion call to the young in a country which by any standard is relatively inclusive, and provides them with good skills and prospects. Merkel, on the other hand, strikes them as administratively and economically competent. Most importantly, she does not alienate them by championing either red-in-tooth-and-claw market capitalism or a back-to-the-1950s social conservatism.”
Europe needs Merkel's strong shoulders
Svenska Dagbladet analyses the consequences of the German election for European security.
“For Sweden a victory for the CDU would undoubtedly be the better option. Schulz positioned himself as a dove in the campaign when he promised that an SDP victory would not maintain the two-percent Nato objective. But with an aggressive Russia and a US that is retreating from the world, a militarily strong Germany would be a guarantor of stability in Europe. The indications are that Schulz will lose in September. But the big question is really who will shoulder Merkel's role when she eventually leaves the political stage.”
Germans feel good with 'Mutti'
The outcome of the parliamentary elections in Germany is basically already decided, believes Hospodářské noviny:
“If Angela Merkel avoids making any more grave mistakes in the eyes of the electorate, she will have no problems being reelected. Polls give her party a solid 15 percent lead over the Social Democrats. No matter what issue Martin Schulz serves up, whether it is defence cuts or inadequate handling of refugee integration, or insufficient pension increases. The Germans are satisfied with Merkel, just like her campaign slogan says: 'For a Germany in which we like to live and live well'. ... Also because they can see what Brexit and Trump have brought, the Germans prefer to stick with what they already have. With 'Mutti'.”
No shortage of controversial issues
As the election campaign kicks off in Germany Dagens Nyheter identifies a number of problems in the country:
“Germany is saving too much and investing too little. No wealthy country spends as little on infrastructure. The service industry is still burdened by too many regulations. The integration of more than one million refugees who have come to Germany in the last two years is a colossal challenge. Defence spending is ridiculously low. The election of Emmanuel Macron as the French president is an opportunity to get the EU back into action. But his objectives are different to Germany's. A more strongly integrated financial policy is not going to be an easy sell and no German wants to stand surety for Eurobonds.”
No harm in social consensus
The widespread complaint that there is a lack of differences between parties in German elections falls on deaf ears at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
“It is a great achievement of civilisation when a society is agreed on key issues and not constantly at war with itself. Let alone resorting to violence - but in plenty of countries even this is not a given. Is it not, from the point of view of those people who would wish for more disagreement, beneficial to all that not every societal debate brings public life to a halt? And is it not a good thing that the orgy of violence at the G20 summit in Hamburg met with almost unanimous rejection even from the sort of people who are generally opposed to such meetings? ... So there is absolutely no harm in a certain amount of basic consensus in the political landscape.”