Merkel, Schulz at home base on final campaign push

Sunday, 24 Sep, 2017

With just days to go until Germany heads to the polls, lampposts are filled with campaign posters containing photos of candidates from an array of different parties starring down at drivers and passers-by.

Macron will present "concrete proposals" for European Union reforms on Tuesday (26 September) in the wake of the German vote, amid French hopes that these would become part of the discussions on a new coalition government and its programme in Germany.

Even though most of Berlin's political hacks remain convinced Angela Merkel will win by a comfortable margin in Sunday's parliamentary election, they're unnerved by a last-minute surge by the Alternative for Germany (AfD), a far-right party that until a few weeks ago many in the establishment believed had been defanged, at least for the moment.

The SPD, led former President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, is in second place in the polls - securing around a quarter of the vote. Merkel will probably be remembered for her political longevity but also for placing ethical considerations above ideological concerns.

Merkel this week told Deutsche Welle she would never co-operate with the AfD, while SPD leader Martin Schulz, her rival for the chancellery, on Friday night in his last campaign speech called them "the shame of the nation".

"Merkel's politic has followed public opinion, which means there has been no competing ideas nor real debate". After we joined the grand coalition, people could no longer see the differences between us and the CDU. After the Brexit-upset and President Trump's surprise victory, one can not entirely rule out a hidden AfD vote. It should be mentioned that, if a new grand coalition is formed, the AFD might evolve into the main opposition, being the third largest party in six-party parliament instead of the current four-party one.

The party arose as a response to Merkel's handling of the Syrian refugee crisis - with a lack of preparedness concerning the influx of 890,000 migrants in 2015 and their assimilation into German society and their adoption of German values. But the incident only demonstrated how little Merkel needed Schulz, or anyone, to defend her.

Should the party enter the German Parliament, it would be the first far-right group to do so in over half a century.

"That antagonises AfD supporters, who in the CDU's confidence of victory see further evidence of the arrogance of power in the late Merkel years". "It would hurt them (Russia)", said Sergey Lagodinsky, a lawyer and researcher with a Green Party-connected think tank in Berlin.

German electoral system makes it very hard for any one party to form a government on its own.

The leader of the party that wins the most seats gets the first opportunity to build a government.

Gabriel told Russian broadcaster RT this week that not all AfD members or voters were Nazis, but the party has 'people at the helm of the AfD that are inciting people to hatred, that are trading in Nazi propaganda'.

Macron's election earlier this year demonstrated that the center continues to hold against populists, even as voters also turn away from the traditional politics of the right and left. Criticising Ms Merkel's refugee policy has not worked either since the SPD, as the junior coalition partner, can not credibly claim to have opposed it at the height of the crisis.

Social Democrat chief Schulz meanwhile will take his rally to Aachen, a western city next to his hometown of Wuerselen.

"If I could, I would vote for Merkel", it says. Germans are really attracted to that stability. The potential partners for a broader progressive project, the SPD and the Greens, have shown no interest in left-wing policies, instead orienting themselves towards the political center and presenting themselves not as representatives of the opposition, but as potential coalition partners for Angela Merkel, who will nearly certainly win the election. With the future after 2021 so unpredictable, the next four years are likely to be used to prepare the ground for a new era of electoral battles in Germany.