Schröder’s Legacy Still Relevant to German Left

The German Social Democrats’ draft election manifesto released last week revealed two things: they are at once haunted by their past and have learned from it.

Ten years ago, Germany’s Social Democrat chancellor Gerhard Schröder initiated far-reaching economic and social reforms. While there is ongoing academic debate about whether these reforms are solely responsible for the resilient German economy (PDF) and labor market (PDF), there is widespread agreement that they are at least part of the nation’s current success.

This puts the party’s contender for the chancellorship, Peer Steinbrück, in a delicate position, not least since he was one of the strongest supporters of Schröder’s agenda. Incumbent chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is in the comfortable position of continuing to run with a program that was originally designed by the left yet showed in many parts an ideological affinity with the economic right.

Steinbrück and the chairman of his party, Sigmar Gabriel, are trying to find the middle ground between maintaining the inheritance of their successful reforms and the necessity of presenting themselves as an alternative to Merkel’s conservatives. Read more “Schröder’s Legacy Still Relevant to German Left”

Germany’s Merkel Dominates Preelection Polls

Angela Merkel
German chancellor Angela Merkel answers questions from reporters in Brussels, June 28, 2012 (Bundesregierung)

When German voters decide the new composition of the Bundestag in the fall of this year, one thing seems almost inevitable: Angela Merkel will remain chancellor, unless all three parties left of center agree to form a coalition government of their own.

Although the scenario seems highly improbable, Merkel will be presented with a tough choice of her own. While it is too early to put too much faith in opinion polls, the current numbers are startling: Merkel’s conservatives are consistently breaking the 40 percent mark while the Social Democrats led by Peer Steinbrück can barely meet 30 percent of voter approval.

But Merkel’s present coalition partners, the liberal Free Democrats, are caught in a battle for political survival, failing to meet the necessary 5 percent mark to be represented in parliament in almost every poll. In recent weeks it has become clear that the Christian Democrats are already taking the possibility of a new coalition partner into their calculations, showing a dwindling support for the liberals in upcoming provincial elections. This strategy is painful for the liberals but makes sense from Angela Merkel’s point of view. Why rely on a razor’s edge majority on the right when a more comfortable margin could be reached with the Social Democrats or the Greens? Read more “Germany’s Merkel Dominates Preelection Polls”

Germany’s Greens Consider Coalition with Conservatives

View of the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, September 12, 2009
View of the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, September 12, 2009 (Javan Makhmali)

Germany’s Green party, the most electorally successful of its kind in Europe, may enter a coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives after next year’s parliamentary election.

Although the Greens would prefer an alliance with the Social Democrats, with whom they governed the country between 1998 and 2005 under Gerhard Schröder, opinion polls suggest that the two left-wing parties may not gather the necessary majority. The Social Democrats are languished at 30 percent in preelection surveys compared to 39 percent for Merkel’s Christian Democrats. Pollsters put support for the Greens at 13 percent, up from 11 in the last federal election. Read more “Germany’s Greens Consider Coalition with Conservatives”