Robert Harneis –TDO- (FRANCE) The painfully achieved coalition between the German centre-right CDU/CSU and centre-left SPD is in danger of collapse after the shock resignation of SPD leader Martin Schultz.
French President Emmanuel Macron and EU leaders had been counting on the presence of the very pro-EU Schultz in the new German coalition government. The SDP leader was previously President of the European Parliament. A key element in Macron’s election program was a more integrated Europe with a joint Eurozone parliament, budget and Finance Minister. Without Schultz it is difficult to see how this can be achieved, if it was ever possible.
Schultz first of all said that the SPD would never join a new grand coalition, known as Groko, after the difficult experience of the previous one. At the last elections, the party achieved 20.5%, its worst vote since 1945. He was then persuaded to change his mind by Angela Merkel and after difficult negotiations achieved an agreement. This U-turn was not popular with party members. He then angered his party further by reserving for himself the post of Foreign Secretary presently filled by the competent and popular Sigmar Gabriel. Gabriel has said that he was promised the job and made a derogatory speech about Schultz breaking his word. At the same time the SPD leader angered party members by making concessions to Merkel on immigration. The divisive new coalition is subject to confirmation by party members by postal vote on March 2th. It will be touch and go as to whether the 464,000 party members will approve what Schultz has negotiated. In his resignation statement he urged members to support the agreement and said that he hoped his resignation would make this easier. The youth section of the party is actively recruiting new members to vote against the coalition and there has been an upsurge of 25,000 new members likely to vote N and Jay-Z and o.
The SPD leader further angered members by declaring in his resignation statement that Andrea Nahles had been unanimously approved as the new leader by the party leadership. Angry members pointed out that it was up to them to decide who the new leader should be. A vote will be taken April 22nd.
Chaos on the left is not necessarily good news for the right. Merkel made major concessions to the SPD to get an agreement only to find the leader she negotiated with has gone. Any new leader is likely to be further to the left and less concerned with Europe. A key feature put forward in the coalition agreement was European reform, which to CDU/CSU members sounds too much like German money for the rest of Europe. Already Martin Schultz’s speech to SPD members in which he said that he had been congratulated by French president Emmanuel Macron was greeted with derision. And it is therefore not difficult to imagine how it is viewed on the Conservative right, which is already angry because Chancellor Merkel agreed to allow the SDU to take over the Ministry of Finance. Members fear that the new coalition will generate an even greater loss of votes to the Alternative for Germany (AFD) anti-immigrant, anti-Europe party
At the same time the CDU/CSU Economic Council, representing 12,000 businesses, have spoken out against the proposed EU ‘reform’.
All in all the prospects for the new Groko coalition are not looking good. To add to the woes of Germany’s two parties of government, their already tattered popularity is sliding further in the in the opinion polls.