SPD's popularity drops in run-up to election

Less than a week before the elections to the German parliament the SPD's approval ratings have dropped to between 20 and 22 percent, the lowest since Martin Schulz was elected party leader. Commentators take stock of the chancellor candidate's weaknesses and discuss why social democrats aren't winning elections anywhere in Europe.

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Schulz left his only trump unplayed

Martin Schulz made a fatal mistake in the election campaign, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung comments:

“All of a sudden he no longer wanted to be the steely European but the nice man from next door who knows all about his neighbours' worries. Eleven years as mayor of Würselen - that's what Schulz hurled at everyone who criticised his lack of experience in government. ... As a European politician Schulz had something to show for himself, for years he played on the same level as the chancellor. But no one can remember what he did as mayor in Würselen three decades ago. ... Martin Schulz's candidacy was an experiment. This was the first time a European politician made a grab for the chancellorship. Admittedly, his chances weren't that good from the start; that wasn't his fault. But to leave his best, and ultimately his only real trump unplayed was his decision.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Hard times for the social democrats

Social democrats across Europe lack a strategy for winning votes, Jyllands-Posten observes:

“Should they target the voters that are turning their backs on the parties and combine social anger with opposition to migration and the EU? Or should they distance themselves from all that and head in an entirely different direction, for example further to the left, with the risk of being perceived as economically irresponsible? ... Norway can be an example for all Europe: if the conservatives set themselves up as reliable administrators of the welfare state the social democrats are pretty much powerless against them. ... In Germany Martin Schulz is fighting to free himself from the embrace of the [conservative coalition partners] CDU/CSU.”

ABC (ES) /

All eyes on Germany

Europe is worried about the probable losers of the election because their share of the vote will determine how much influence the national conservative AfD gets, comments ABC:

“Half Europe's agenda depends on the German elections. Not because anyone doubts that Chancellor Merkel will win but because of the consequences her victory will have for the other parties. ... If the populists and demogogues of the AfD manage to enter parliament with a strong hand they could become the real opposition in the event that the Social Democrats remain part of the governing coalition. The chancellor, however, seems more inclined to offer the possibility of a coalition to the liberals and the Greens.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Fight to the end

SPD chancellor candidate Martin Schulz is in an even worse situation than his predecessor Peer Steinbrück in 2013, Der Standard comments:

“With Steinbrück it was clear: if he didn't become chancellor he'd leave politics and focus on his career as a speaker. He was 'just' a chancellor candidate. A ministerial portfolio wasn't good enough for him, and his party comrades didn't particularly like him either. It won't be so easy for Schulz to make himself scarce after September 24. He's the SPD leader as well as its chancellor candidate, and was elected with 100 percent backing in March. That puts a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. And with party leaders and their members it's like with the wedding vows in church: in good times and in bad. So Schulz has only one option as he enters the home stretch: to fight to the end.”