German elections: SPD in the fast lane

Two weeks ago the SPD caught up with the CDU/CSU and they were neck and neck in the polls for the first time since 2017. With less than four weeks to go before Germany's parliamentary elections, the downward trend for the CDU/CSU is continuing. While the SPD under chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz is polling at up to 25 percent, the CDU/CSU is trailing behind at around 21 percent, with the Greens at roughly 18 percent. Europe's press speculates on the consequences of an SPD election victory.

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New Statesman (GB) /

An ersatz Merkel

Olaf Scholz is the biggest trump in the SPD's hand, The New Statesman affirms:

“The surest proof of that is his emergence as a sort of continuity Merkel. Germany's outgoing chancellor remains the country's most popular politician; her calm solidity fundamentally appeals to a relatively comfortable country that has long prized stability. That style comes naturally to Scholz, the dry, mild-mannered, restrained Hamburger. ... In the TV debate on 29 August he performed the impression to a fault. Where Laschet and Baerbock sniped and sparred, he plodded, talking in genial generalities and posing as the experienced, familiar, reasonable middle ground between them. Short of donning one of Merkel's boxy, colourful jackets, it is hard to imagine what more he could have done to encourage the parallel.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Danger of a drastic change of course

Gazeta Wyborcza sees a left-wing governing coalition as a realistic but not exactly encouraging prospect:

“According to parliamentary arithmetic, Scholz will need not one but two coalition partners if he wins the election. The Left could form the third pillar of such a coalition, provided it gains a few more percentage points. ... Such a government would mark a major change of course in German politics. Not only in the direction of more generous social policies or ambitious climate protection, but above all as far as foreign policy is concerned. The Left rejects Nato and is against the participation of the Bundeswehr in foreign missions. What's more, some of its politicians worship Vladimir Putin and openly yearn for the days of the GDR. This attitude would no doubt be reflected in some way in the government programme.”

hvg (HU) /

No need to give The Left the Foreign Office

Hvg also thinks a coalition with The Left Party is possible:

“There are enough arguments for the Left Party's inability to form a coalition: it has consistently opposed Nato and the participation of German soldiers in any foreign missions. This means that it should probably not be offered the Foreign Office or the Defence Ministry in potential coalition negotiations. However in view of the increasing social inequalities, The Left could concentrate its energy on one of the social ministries. So anything is possible.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

This star too could crash to earth

Not too much should be made of the fact that the SPD has recently gained ground in the polls, The Irish Times stresses:

“Five weeks is an eternity in politics and the SPD knows all about dashed hopes. Four years ago the SPD messiah was not Scholz but Martin Schulz, the former European Parliament president who soared and then crashed to earth on election night with just 20.5 per cent. Today's SPD is just three points above that historical disaster and Olaf Scholz knows he is profiting as much from Laschet's weakness than from any new-found strength of his own.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Scholz would be good for Europe

A victory for Olaf Scholz would be very good news for Europe, writes Berlin correspondent Tonia Mastrobuoni in La Repubblica:

“Time and again he has taken on a mediating role in Europe, even against the rigorous reproaches of the advocates of austerity. And when the stimulus package was launched he spoke of a 'Hamilton moment' [in reference to the nation-building debt sharing instrument introduced by the first US Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in 1790] involving an extraordinary rapprochement in Europe. From conversations it appears that Scholz as chancellor would be much more pro-European than his slogans, interviews and campaign appearances suggest.”

Die Presse (AT) /

As vacuous as a dating show

The German public seems totally apolitical five weeks before the elections, observes Die Presse:

“From the outside, the German election campaign looks like one of those beauty or dating shows on the German private TV channels, only without beauty or dates. For months, almost nothing but the blunders, sins and faux pas of more or less weak leading candidates have been discussed with a strange fervour, as if climate change, the pandemic or an expected debt crisis didn't exist. ... There is a major issue that Germany should be discussing: the pandemic has shown that the administrative structures, parts of the health system and the education sector are in urgent need of modernisation. Of all countries, the largest economy is lagging behind on digitalisation.”