German Election hot’s up as Merkel remains the favourite

The 24th September will see Germany make a pivotal decision on its future. They can either re-elect Angela Merkel for an unprecedented fourth term in office, or vote for Social Democrat challenger, Martin Schultz, to become Chancellor.

Much was made at the beginning of 2017 of Martin Schultz’s ability to be elected to such a high position. When he announced his candidacy, he was enjoying a wave of support, especially from young German voters. Now Schultz’s challenge has fast faded away into the distance.

As a challenger, Martin Schultz, could have led his crusade purely on change. The Merkel administration has often fluffed decisions due to the existing coalition imbalance. Not entirely of its own volition, yes, but a party as big as the CDU should be winning outright in most cases. Yet, Schultz fails to capitalise.

Schultz is no doubt a strong orator, however, he hasn’t showed the German population he can cope with the big decisions and when under pressure. While his policies have promised little change.

Meanwhile, Angela Merkel continues to get stronger and stronger throughout this election period. She has shown steel and guile, even if she has been aided by good fortune and the current political climate.

Young voters, studies have shown, have no desire for drastic changes. With Brexit looming, a rise in terrorist activity, they simply wish to see Germany consolidate its power in the European Union and maintain some order after recent events.

While, the economy remains strong, it may be seen as risky to hand it straight over to Schultz or any other new leader. Merkel may not be everyone’s most popular politician, but her experience has often been key in Germany’s trade and EU deals. Which ultimately means Germany can ill afford to lose such a strong leader at such a crucial stage for the European Union.

Anton Warzecher, who says he’s already made up his mind and does not need to hear another pitch from Schulz.

64-year-old Anton Warzecher summed up his views. “I’m not convinced by Martin Schulz; he’s not a plausible candidate,” Warzecher says. “I simply don’t trust his ability to deal with all the tensions in the world right now. Only Angela Merkel can do that job.”

The Social Democrats are 15 points behind the CDP so there is certainly substance to Warzecher’s words. However, Germany protecting its own citizens at home and counter terrorism tactics, have actually seen mass criticism levelled at Mrs Merkel a lot this year.

Luckily for her, the mind-set of a voter in such circumstances can be a defensive one, particularly if the leader comes out with strong speeches against terrorism. For example, Bush and Kerry. The general population often feels “safer” or reassured especially in times of danger. Changing leader and instability, is something voters want to avoid.

Another piece of good news is that the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) don’t look anywhere close to gaining any kind of tangible control. With Europe seemingly experiencing some far-right shifts, this is a welcome relief for European politics. France also triumphed over far right opposition with Emmanuel Macron’s victory over Marine Le Pen showcasing this.

The rival parties have struggled to build enough firepower that would even threaten the CDP as the Business-Friendly Free Democrats (FDP), stand at 9.5% in the latest polls, and the Greens, currently at 7.5%. Indicating coalitions with these parties seems unlikely.

In conclusion, it seems Schultz has missed a golden opportunity to become Chancellor. As Der Spiegel stated “Under the surface there is an urge for change in Germany, and this was shown in the beginning of the year when Martin Schulz entered the political arena.” Yet, he hasn’t believed that he could win. He has not attacked Merkel for the refugee crisis, which means those shortcomings have often been overlooked.

Angela Merkel now stands in the enjoyable position of overtaking Helmut Kohl’s record of being modern Germany’s longest-serving Chancellor if she can win on Sunday.

James S.

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