The most boring TV debate?
The TV debate between CDU Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Social Democratic challenger Martin Schulz drew plenty of attention abroad as well as in Germany. Described by many German media as a "boring" event, the debate was very revealing in the eyes of commentators across Europe.
Boring in the best sense of the word
Politiken is delighted by the calm objectiveness of the confrontation:
“The matter-of-fact way in which the debate was conducted clearly shows that the race for the chancellorship is a civilized and adult election campaign in a mature democracy. The contrast with the election race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the US a year ago is all too glaring. Some may call the German way of doing election campaigns 'boring'. But then 'boring' is synonymous with nuanced discussions about complex issues between the main political opponents. … And if that's the way it is, could the German politicians and media please send more 'boring stuff' north across the Danish border?”
Debate on migration does not bode well
Rzeczpospolita's former Berlin correspondent Jerzy Haszczyński finds it telling that the debate dealt extensively with the refugee crisis:
“Clearly no issue is more important for Germany than migration. And if that goes for Germany it also goes for the rest of the EU. That does not bode well for the continent. The conflict over how to deal with immigrants from other regions of the world will profoundly influence the future of the EU. Some German politicians like Schulz want to make EU funding dependent on the reception of refugees. In addition Berlin wants to introduce a mechanism for the distribution of migrants, and to force the EU member states to take in a certain number of refugees over a long period of time. And all that under the motto of solidarity.”
Is Germany set for a new grand coalition?
One thing the TV debate has established is that the SPD and CDU are ready for a new grand coalition, Il Sole 24 Ore comments:
“Even if that's not the preferred option of either Merkel - who favours an alliance with the FDP or the Green Party - or of Schulz, who was chosen by the SPD precisely because it was hoped that he represented an alternative to the grand coalition. ... The debacle of the state elections in the spring put an end to any such hopes, because the voters clearly rejected an alliance of the SPD, the Left Party and the Greens. ... The coalition talks after September 24 threaten to be prolonged, even though it's already clear who will lead the new government. But even in 2013 the negotiations lasted 90 days although the result was clear from the start.”
No good punchlines or emotions
Die Welt was disappointed by the entire debate:
“What a missed opportunity, what a meagre linguistic purée, devoid of any flashes of brilliance or big emotions. Angela Merkel won this lacklustre duel, and - after a rather impressive start - Martin Schulz lost. ... Neither was able to generate any real enthusiasm in the audience. It was an unsensual, uncharming, inelegant way of getting ideas across. Hopefully it didn't scare off young voters who are just beginning to take an interest in politics. However, Merkel benefits from the fact that she prefers to govern than run for office. Schulz is just a campaigner. For that reason, what he had to offer was too little.”
Uninspired but solid
It's not necessarily a bad thing that the debate was dull, De Tijd points out:
“You can't really expect fireworks when the leaders of coalition parties look back on four years of common policies. ... Merkel will once again come out on top, but if the FDP isn't strong enough she'll have no choice but to call in Schulz and the Social Democrats. And unlike the TV duel, that will be a difficult debate. In the multi-party system it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach political compromises. Germany has the big advantage of boring moderation, with few extremist parties influencing the debate. That can seem soporific, but in the end it results in a stable government.”
Right and left transposed in Germany
The conservative chancellor set herself up as the champion of human rights, Protogon observes:
“Regarding refugees the Social Democratic candidate played the 'tough guy' and called for European legislation, while the chancellor assumed the role of defender of the weak. ... She came across as more self-confident, more pro-European, and - according to the standards of political communication - perhaps even further to the left than her Social Democratic rival. On the topic of the reunification of refugee families, Schulz answered that 'each case must be examined individually', while Merkel referred to the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees. That's a good example of how deeply we've misunderstood the Germans by assigning them to left or right according to our own stereotypes.”