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The SPD establishment rushes to Merkel’s rescue

Desperate to avoid an election SPD leadership reverses itself and talks to Merkel about propping her up as Chancellor

Alexander Mercouris

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Days after the collapse of the coalition talks in Berlin German Chancellor Angela Merkel has found a not-so-unlikely saviour in the form of the leadership of the SPD, Germany’s biggest ‘opposition’ party and her partner in the outgoing coalition.

After the SPD’s dismal showing in the September parliamentary elections – when the SPD’s share of the vote was a paltry 20.5% – the SPD’s leadership led by the party’s leader Martin Schulz vowed that the SPD would not enter into any further coalition with Angela Merkel.

The idea was that the SDP, having been badly damaged by its all-too-close association with Merkel in two coalition governments, urgently needed to distance itself from Merkel so that it could start to reconnect with its increasingly angry and alienated working class base.

In addition SPD leader Martin Schulz said it would be wrong for the SPD to forge a new coalition with Merkel after the SPD’s previous coalition with Merkel was electorally hammered by German voters in the September election.

That was a clear and straightforward position, easily understandable by the SPD’s membership and electoral base, and one which makes total political sense.

However following the collapse of the talks between Merkel and the FDP and the Greens to form a so-called ‘Jamaica coalition’ the SPD at the insistence of President Steinmeier (previously one of the SPD’s most senior leaders) reversed itself.  Following a tense eight hour discussion on Thursday it agreed to open talks with Merkel to look for ways to support her government.  There is now even some talk of the SPD going into coalition with her again.

What lies behind this truly extraordinary reversal?

The SPD has come under extreme pressure from the German political establishment to save Merkel.  This is because of fears that a new election would result in a further increase in support for the anti-establishment AfD.

This appears to be a prospect that Germany’s political establishment finds too horrible to contemplate, so once it became clear that negotiations to form a ‘Jamaica coalition’ were going nowhere the SPD came under intense pressure to reverse its stance so as to prevent the threatened election from taking place.

Over and above this, there is also a measure of truth in the frequent claim that the entire political ethos of postwar Germany is one which requires political parties to look for compromises.  A conflict between parties which results in fresh elections may be a commonplace in many European countries.  In postwar Germany it has never happened previously, and the German business community in particular was alarmed by it, and made known its wish that it be resolved quickly without new elections being called.

However the SPD was not just strong-armed by the German political establishment into reversing its position.  On the contrary it is clear that this was also the urgent wish of most of its most senior leaders.

The cause of the alarm is a series of opinion polls which show that since the September election Merkel’s popularity and that of the two big establishment parties – the CDU/CSU bloc and the SPD – is continuing to crash.

Not only is Merkel’s own popularity draining away, but the opinion polls suggest that in the event of a new election the CDU’s/CSU’s support might easily fall below 30% (in the September election it was 33%) whilst the SPD’s support might fall below 20%.

This seems to have spooked many senior SPD officials and MPs, who terrified of losing their seats in the Bundestag pressed for talks with Merkel to prevent an election from taking place.

The fact that the SPD is making decisions based on such calculations shows why it is going to go on losing support.

When British Prime Minister Theresa May called an election in April this year there was also pressure on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to block the election.  The reasoning was that if the election happened Theresa May would triumph and Labour would be crushed.

Corbyn spurned these cowardly counsels and instead welcomed the election.  For that however he came under strong criticism from precisely the same sort of people in Britain’s Labour Party as those in Germany’s SPD who are anxious to avoid an election in Germany now.  See for example this extraordinary article by the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee, blasting Corbyn for his ‘ineptitude’ in agreeing to an election which would result in ‘catastrophe’ for his party.

In the event and against all expectations an energetic and self-confident Corbyn stormed if not to victory then to a very close second place, increasing the Labour Party’s share of the vote from 30% to 40%, and depriving Theresa May of her majority.

The events of the last week show that Germany’s SPD has no equivalent to Jeremy Corbyn.

On the contrary it has become as assimilated into Germany’s neoliberal political establishment as is Angela Merkel and her CDU/CSU.   In truth it is politically speaking Germany’s neoliberal establishment along with Angela Merkel and her CDU/CSU.

Given that it is precisely that neoliberal establishment that German voters are now rejecting that all but guarantees that the SPD will continue to lose support, and by talking about propping up Merkel the SPD is simply giving its working class base further reason to desert it.

It is still not a fully foregone conclusion that the SPD’s will forge an arrangement with Merkel.  The party’s grassroots – closer to German voters and more loyal to the party’s traditions than its leadership – are believed to be unhappy and will have a vote over whatever arrangement is finally agreed.  In a sign of the unease the party’s youth wing has already said that it will expect the talks with Merkel to be broken off if there is no agreement by Christmas.

Assuming an agreement is however reached, it should be clear that it will be a case of trading short-term ‘stability’ for long-term crisis.

Angela Merkel is quite simply the wrong person to continue to be German Chancellor.

This has been my consistent view ever since I first expressed it back in 2014.  More to the point, it is a view which is now starting to become mainstream.

Consider for example this article by Roger Boyes in the London Times, with its comments like these

Germans have become too comfortable with the rule of Angela Merkel, so cosy in their governing compact, so gemütlich that they failed to recognise they have a Merkel problem. For the past 12 years the chancellor has ducked big choices about Germany’s role in the world, about the need for change, and now the country is paying the price……

The great hope that accompanied the election of Merkel in 2005 was that she would usher Germany into the modern world in a non-threatening, non-Thatcherite way. Instead, without a guiding idea, her various coalition governments have been about crisis management: the global financial breakdown, the eurozone in disarray, Greece hurtling towards bankruptcy, an increasingly aggressive Vladimir Putin, the flood of refugees from apparently insoluble wars. She was never under-employed but along the way she lost the plot.

Since her political convictions were never laid out clearly, she felt free to steal the political clothes of her various coalition partners, the Free Democrats and the Social Democrats, claiming them as her own. She even dressed herself up as a Green by suddenly renouncing nuclear power after the Fukushima accident in 2011, thus keeping options open for a future alliance with the party.

The corrosive effect of leadership without a compass has become clear over the past weeks. Neither the Free Democrats nor the Social Democrats trust her as a partner; they both bled votes after being in coalition with her. All parties are feuding furiously with each other, making a nonsense of the chancellor’s claim to be a consensus politician. Her Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union is alarmed by her drift leftwards and by her misjudgment in opening up Germany’s borders to a million migrants and refugees. The CSU faces a regional election next year. In public it swears loyalty to Merkel; in private it knows that the association with Merkel is likely to be toxic, driving even more voters towards the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Apart from the (inevitable) reference to the “increasingly aggressive Vladimir Putin” there is not a word here with which I disagree.

More to the point, as the draining away of Merkel’s popularity shows, this is also increasingly becoming the view of Germany voters.

Propping up an increasingly unpopular Chancellor who is now obviously past her sell-by date is a certain recipe for trouble, and is not politically speaking sustainable.

As I said in my discussion of the state of Germany which I wrote just before the election, what Germany needs is not more of the same – which is all it is ever going to get from Merkel – but strong and purposeful leadership, which can start to address Germany’s mounting problems.

These are likely to become increasingly apparent within the next few years or even months, as  evidence mounts that the German economy is dangerously overheating.

The German people sense this, which is why in September’s election Merkel’s coalition lost so much support.

Presenting the German people with the same coalition just weeks after that coalition lost so much support in the September election is in political and electoral terms pure folly.  Martin Schultz for once was saying it right when he said just a week ago that it would be totally the wrong thing to do

The mere fact that this folly is even being discussed is a sign of something else.  For the first time since the establishment of the Bundesrepublik Germany’s political class is running scared of Germany’s voters.  Instead of calling an election – the standard way to resolve a political crisis in a parliamentary democracy – Germany’s political class is instead engaging in a shabby stitch-up because it is frightened of how Germany’s voters might vote in an election.

That of course is not something which is unknown in other countries.  In Germany however it is something new.  That means that in German political terms an important line has been crossed.

Running scared in that way will of course cede the position of being the only true opposition parties  in the Bundestag to the AfD and to the leftist Die Linke.  Inevitably that will also cede the political initiative to them, ensuring that their support will continue to increase.  It speaks volumes about the state of German politics and about the weakness of Germany’s traditional ‘establishment’ parties that the only party in the Bundestag which had the courage and understanding of the situation to call on Merkel to resign once the ‘Jamaica coalition’ talks collapsed was the AfD.

If a stitch-up is put together to allow Merkel to remain Chancellor, it will start to fray very quickly.

Merkel’s authority is gone, and so very quickly will what is left of her popularity, especially if predictions of a looming crisis in the economy come true.

Meanwhile the SPD will continue to lose support as it props up the unpopular government of a discredited and unwanted Chancellor.

Sooner or later the whole thing will fall apart, but in a much messier and more dangerous way than would be the case if an election were called now.

This however is the dismal scenario Germany’s political class is presenting to the German people.

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Russian Il-20 downed by Syrian missile. Russia blames Israel. Israel blames Syria (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The unthinkable has happened in Syria.

The world now teeters on the brink of all out war in Syria as a Russian Il-20 was downed by Syrian missile after Israeli F-16s used it as cover during attack, according to statements made by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

President Vladimir Putin, answering a reporter’s question during a press conference with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, said the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the tripwire triggered that has the potential to tip the fragile balance in Syria towards conflict between Russia, Iran and Israel.

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The Russian military says an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its Il-20 plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said…

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via a hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

The statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean.

The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region.”

The statement further said that 15 Russian military service members have died as a result…

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile.”

According to reports from RT, the Russian military said that the French Navy’s frigate ‘Auvergne,’ as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area during the Israeli operation.

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

The Russian ministry said the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation.” Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,”the statement said.

The statement gives a larger death toll than earlier reports by the Russian military, which said there were 14 crew members on board the missing Il-20. It said a search and rescue operation for the shot-down plane is underway.

A later update said debris from the downed plane was found some 27km off the Latakia coast. The search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane.

Meanwhile Israel has come out to blame the Syrian government for the downing of the military plane, according to an IDF statement.

Israel said that it “expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members” of the Russian plane. However, it stated that the government of Bashar Assad “whose military shot down the Russian plane,” is “fully responsible” for the incident.

Israel further blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained that its jets were targeting a Syrian facility “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Israel claimed that the weapons were “meant to attack Israel.”

Via RT

The IDF assumed that the Syrian anti-air batteries “fired indiscriminately” and didn’t “bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.” The Israelis said that when the Syrian military launched the missiles which hit the Russian plane, its own jets were already within Israeli airspace. “During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation.”

According to the Israeli military, both IDF and Russia have “a deconfliction system,” which was agreed upon by the leadership of both states, and “has proven itself many times over recent years.” The system was in use when the incident happened, the IDF stated. The IDF promised to share “all the relevant information” with Russia “to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

The military presented a four-point initial inquiry into events in Latakia. It insisted that “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian anti-aircraft fire caused the Russian jet “to be hit and downed.”

The Russian Il-20 aircraft, with 15 crew on board, went off radar during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province late Monday. Later on Tuesday the Russian Defense Ministry said that an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile.

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Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

Trump has ordered the DOJ to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions.

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Via Zerohedge

President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also released will be specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The statement reads in full:

“At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

***

As we reported last Monday, Trump had been expected to release the documents any time – with specific attention to the Page documents and the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship  with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.

  • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election — a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.)
  • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page — all to take down Trump. –Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele.

Last month Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions  “Justice” Department? A total joke!”

Trump’s threat came one day after two tweets about Ohr, noting a connection to former FBI agent Peter Strzok, as well as a text sent by Ohr after former FBI Director James Comey was fired in which Ohr says “afraid they will be exposed.”

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”

“After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly,” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

In early August, journalist Paul Sperry tweeted that Trump may use his presidential authority to declassify “20 redacted pages of a June, 2017 FISA renewal, “and possibly” 63 pages of emails and notes between “Ohr & Steele,” and FD-302 summaries of 12 interviews.”

President Trump threatened to declassify documents two weeks ago – one day after the New York Times allegedly published an anonymous Op-Ed claiming to be from a White House official claiming to be part of an unelected “resistance” cabal within the Trump administration.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

Trump’s threat comes as calls by frustrated GOP legislators to release the documents have hit a fevered pitch. Spearheading the effort are Republican Reps. Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin – who have repeatedly asked Trump to declassify more of the heavily redacted FISA surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late 2016.

In June, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asked President Trump to declassify key sections of Carter Page’s FISA warrant application, according to a letter obtained by Fox News.

Carter Page, the DOJ/FBI’s person of interest, weighed in on the matter in late August, tweeting: “The Corrupt DOJ, co-conspirators in the DNC and their high-priced consultants correctly believed they had American democracy and the FISA Court over a barrel in 2016.”

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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