Election campaign Forcing the CDU on Defense

SPD head Martin Schulz could become a threat to Angela Merkel's chancellorship, writes Handelsblatt's editor in chief.
Quelle: dpa
Martin Schulz could be the SPD's saving grace.
(Source: dpa)

In the election for the new German president, a largely administrative position, the Grand Coalition demonstrated unity. With just one round of voting, the federal convention elected Frank-Walter Steinmeier as future head of state and successor to Joachim Gauck, and did so definitively with the votes of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).

But the joy that representatives of both the two main parties showed on Sunday after the successful vote was fleeting. In fact, the CDU and SPD are already in campaign mode. In the struggle for popularity, they seem to be using any means necessary. Things are being polarized, polemicized and and people are being vilified - and there’s still seven months before the federal parliamentary election.

The unexpected ascent of SPD chancellor candidate Martin Schulz, with which neither his party and definitely not the CDU had reckoned, has triggered intense hostility. The challenging party is intoxicated by the latest opinion polls, which already show the SPD capturing more than 30 percent, putting them in reach of the CDU's position.

The CDU has been forced into a political counter offensive by the meteoric advances Mr. Schulz.

The other party is shocked by the broad approval enjoyed by this previously-unknown-in-Germany European politician. Is the popularity of "Lord Chancellor" Schulz, as the SPD chancellor candidate is called by some fellow party members, more than a brief moment of euphoria? Is Angela Merkel’s chancellorship at risk? Does one have to think about the impossible?

There are still no signs of a real change among voters. In view of the significant geopolitical challenges, a majority of the citizens still seem to trust the chancellor's experience and expertise. But the CDU has been forced into a political counter offensive by the meteoric advances that Mr. Schulz and his party have made since his nomination two weeks ago.

In the party, dossiers are circulating with possible weaknesses of the social democratic challenger. At the same time, the attacks against Mr. Schulz, who has inspired people with his calls for more social justice and fair wages, should intensify in the coming days

With just a few sentences, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, probably the most experienced CDU politician, provided the direction. He compared Mr. Schulz, who has conjured a supposed divide in society, with U.S. President Donald Trump and recommended that the Social Democrat "reflect a little.”

Mr. Schäuble's verbal attacks are not merely a sign of strength: They also show the growing uncertainty within the CDU. The Bundestag election campaign could be exciting again - and that’s a good thing.

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