Germany’s Social Democrats Elect Left-Wing Leaders

Norbert Walter-Borjans, then finance minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, addresses the Bundesrat in Berlin, February 20, 2014
Norbert Walter-Borjans, then finance minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, addresses the Bundesrat in Berlin, February 20, 2014 (Bundesrat/Frank Bräuer)

Earlier this month, I argued that lurching to the left would be a risky strategy for Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), but that the alternative — continuing to rule in a grand coalition with the center-right — is too.

A change could scare off centrist voters, who have an alternative in Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats or Germany’s pragmatic Green party. But the grand coalition has wearied leftists, who have an alternative in the Greens and the far-left Die Linke.

Not making a choice has been worst of all. The SPD has fallen below 15 percent support in recent surveys, behind the Christian Democrats and Greens and neck and neck with the far-right Alternative for Germany. Read more “Germany’s Social Democrats Elect Left-Wing Leaders”

Lurching to the Left Is Risky for Germany’s SPD. So Is the Alternative

German finance minister and Social Democratic Party leader Olaf Scholz attends a debate in parliament in Berlin, July 8, 2018
German finance minister and Social Democratic Party leader Olaf Scholz attends a debate in parliament in Berlin, July 8, 2018 (Deutscher Bundestag/Inga Kjer)

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) are increasingly forced into coalitions with the far left. Such pacts haven’t hurt their counterparts in Portugal and Spain, but Germany is a more conservative country with a politics of consensus and arguably less need for redistributive policies.

The risk is that a left-wing strategy will alienate centrist voters. But the alternative — continuing to rule in grand coalitions with the right — is wearying leftists. Read more “Lurching to the Left Is Risky for Germany’s SPD. So Is the Alternative”

Hessen State Election Confirms National Political Trends

Frankfurt Germany
Frankfurt, Germany at night (Unsplash/Jonas Tebbe)

Germany’s mainstream political parties both lost support in elections in Hessen on Sunday, a lightly populated state in the center of the country that contains the commercial capital of Frankfurt.

The Christian Democrats went down from 38 to 28 percent support, according to exit polls. The Greens, who have shared power with the right in Hessen since 2013, went up from 11 to 20 percent — a major victory, which will probably make it possible for the two parties to continue their coalition government.

The Social Democrats, who govern with the Christian Democrats nationally, suffered yet another historic defeat. Their support fell from 31 to 20 percent, their worst result in Hessen ever. Read more “Hessen State Election Confirms National Political Trends”

Germany’s Social Democrats Understand They Need to Pick Side

Martin Schulz Benoît Hamon
German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz and the French Socialist Party’s Benoît Hamon deliver a news conference in Berlin, March 28, 2017 (Facebook)

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) recognize they should have picked a side.

In a damning analysis of the party’s dismal 2017 election performance — support fell to a postwar low of 20.5 percent — outside experts argue that the campaign lacked “substantive profile”.

The SPD has failed for years to find answers to fundamental questions and to position itself clearly and unequivocally. Whether on the issue of refugees, globalization, internal security or the diesel scandal: the party leadership always tries to please everyone.

The trouble with trying to please everyone, as I’ve argued before, is that you likely end up pleasing no one. Read more “Germany’s Social Democrats Understand They Need to Pick Side”

EU Defense Union Worries Americans, Social Democrats Rally the Troops

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg speaks with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison of the United States going into a North Atlantic Council meeting in Brussels, February 14
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg speaks with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison of the United States going into a North Atlantic Council meeting in Brussels, February 14 (NATO)

Americans continue to worry that closer defense cooperation in Europe might compromise NATO.

Echoing Madeleine Albright’s “three Ds” — no duplication, no decoupling, no discrimination against non-EU NATO states — Kay Bailey Hutchison, the United States ambassador to NATO, warned on Wednesday that European efforts shouldn’t be “protectionist, duplicative of NATO work or distracting from their alliance responsibilities.”

“In Texas we say, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,'” the former senator added.

But transatlantic solidarity goes two ways. On the same day Hutchison cautioned European allies against weakening NATO, Defense Secretary James Mattis hectored them for failing to meet their defense spending targets.

Their boss, Donald Trump, has in the past declared NATO “obsolete”. Little wonder Europe is making its own plans.

Many of which complement NATO, from improving mobility by creating a “military Schengen” to developing a European infantry fighting vehicle.

Also read Tobias Buck in the Financial Times, who reports that Germany still has a long way to go before it can lead a European army. Read more “EU Defense Union Worries Americans, Social Democrats Rally the Troops”

Unconvinced Germans and Unconservative Republicans

Angela Merkel
German chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a news conference in Berlin, November 9, 2016 (Bundesregierung)

Germany’s Christian Democrats and Social Democrats are both fending off grassroots rebellions against their decision to form another grand coalition government.

On the right, there is dismay that Angela Merkel gave away the powerful Finance Ministry. Der Spiegel reports that the decision has stirred her erstwhile catatonic party into a potentially revolutionary fury. The liberal Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung can already see the “twilight” of the Merkel era.

On the left, there is disappointment that Martin Schulz broke his word not to team up with Merkel and fear that the party will be punished at the next election. Wolfgang Münchau — prone to exaggeration, but maybe not far off this time — writes that we may be in for a Brexit-style surprise on March 4, when Social Democratic Party members vote on the coalition deal. Read more “Unconvinced Germans and Unconservative Republicans”

Germany’s Social Democrats Trade Credibility for Power

German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz, then president of the European Parliament, makes a speech in Brussels, June 19, 2013
German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz, then president of the European Parliament, makes a speech in Brussels, June 19, 2013 (European Parliament)

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) punched above their weight and won. They have secured three key ministries in negotiations for another coalition government with the right: finance, foreign affairs and labor. For a party with only 20 percent support, that is an impressive result.

Yet they are in trouble. Read more “Germany’s Social Democrats Trade Credibility for Power”

The Arguments For and Against Another Grand Coalition in Germany

German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz, then president of the European Parliament, gives a speech in Brussels, February 2, 2016
German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz, then president of the European Parliament, gives a speech in Brussels, February 2, 2016 (European Parliament)

Jeremy Cliffe lists the arguments for and against Germany’s Social Democrats joining another grand coalition government with Angela Merkel’s conservatives. Read more “The Arguments For and Against Another Grand Coalition in Germany”