Can Nahles reboot the SPD?
Andrea Nahles was elected leader of the SPD on Sunday after achieving a modest majority. Delegates at the special party convention in Wiesbaden elected the 47-year-old as the party's first chairwoman in its 155-year history. Commentators doubt that she will be able to steer the SPD out of its existential crisis.
SPD needs to say what it wants
Nahles' poor showing could also have to do with the fact that critics of the new edition of the grand coalition are seeing their views confirmed now that the government is in place, the daily Die Welt suspects:
“Once again the SPD seems to be limiting its efforts to 'good' and 'solid' governance. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, of all people, has shown little creative drive so far. Didn't the SPD want to strike out in a new direction on Europe policy? Perhaps it's planning to respond to the reform speech given by French President Emmanuel Macron last September after all - perhaps before the first anniversary of his appearance at the Sorbonne. ... Nahles now faces a mammoth task: she must renew social democracy but above all she must restore the lost trust. ... Whether the issue is integration, domestic security or Europe: the SPD needs to finally start saying what it wants again.”
Nahles, the rebuilder
Nahles is taking over the leadership of the SPD just when it has hit rock bottom, Corriere della Sera writes:
“The party conference in Wiesbaden is confirmation of the insecurity and existential fear of the SPD, whose support among the citizens is at an all-time low. The party is lost in a thick blanket of fog. Nahles is supposed to bring it back into the light by charting out a clear course. ... Now that she is called on to save the SPD, she has earned her nickname 'Trümmerfrau' ['debris woman'] ... Like the women who cleared away the debris in Germany's cities after World War II and paved the way for the country's reconstruction, she, the daughter of a brick mason from the Pfalz region, will now try to rebuild Germany's oldest party.”
New faces not enough
The business paper Naftemporiki has its doubts about whether the SPD will really manage to make a fresh start:
“The SPD, like other similar parties in Europe, is in an enduring crisis in which it is incapable of formulating a clear political alternative to the conservatives. ... The failure of the social democratic parties began long before the 2008 crisis. It began in the middle of the 1990s when they adopted and implemented the agenda of their political opponents. Putting young politicians - and even women - in leading positions won't be enough to drag the so-called centre-left parties out of their profound political and existential crisis.”
Merkel getting resistance from the left
Andrea Nahles could become a serious rival for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, De Standaard believes:
“Merkel will now end up with an SPD chairwoman and parliamentary group leader who will do everything in her power to give the party a clearer profile. Nahles has already warned Merkel that she will be an 'awkward partner'. ... It also looks like the SPD's new leader will go far beyond the boundaries of the coalition agreement to raise her party's profile. And we shouldn't forget that Nahles is quite young compared to Merkel. At 47 she still has a long career ahead of her. She can use the next few years to work on her presence and prove to the population that her party is still a heavyweight in the political arena.”