Can the SPD reverse the trend?
Germany's Social Democrats want to overcome their plunge in the polls with new concepts for the social welfare state and a reform of the Hartz IV unemployment benefit system introduced under former chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Some commentators see the measures as a key move to raise the party's profile. Others say they don't go far enough.
Good news for Europe's democracies
El País takes a positive view of the step:
“This is a complete departure from the last of the major programmes of the SPD first launched three decades ago: Gerhard Schröder's Agenda 2010, which marked the beginning of the party's decline. ... By forming part of the ruling coalition with Merkel, the SPD has shown an exemplary sense of responsibility towards the state that put Germany's stability above the party's short-term election interests, but it has also clearly taken its toll. Now its desire to recover its identity and represent a genuine alternative for government - at a time when populism is gaining ground - is unquestionably good news, not just for Germany's democratic system but for all Europe.”
Indecision is fatal
At last the SPD is truly on the left again, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung comments enthusiastically:
“One thing is clear: nothing has hurt the SPD more than its inconsistency in recent years. Again and again it campaigned for a policy, but also for the opposite policy. ... In these times of polarisation when voters are seeking guidance, such indecision is fatal. The decision on Hartz IV could help the party to find its way back to a consistent course. It would then be a left-wing party and a clear alternative to the CDU once more. This would have major implications. Then not just the present alliance with the CDU would be up for negotiation, but also the current leadership of the SPD.”
Better to leave the coalition now
Saying farewell to the Hartz IV system won't be enough for the SPD to regain its former strength, To Ethnos believes:
“To stop their slide the Social Democrats should slam the door on the grand coalition with the Christian Democrats post haste, rather than waiting for the end of the year [as some party members maintain it should do]. In other words: the SPD should shoulder the responsibility and if necessary the costs of a minority government or early elections. Whereby both alternatives would lead to Chancellor Merkel's early departure.”