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Schulz bombs, Merkel set for re-election, Macron doomed

Merkel’s victory in the state election in North Rhine Westphalia crushes the challenge from the SPD’s Martin Schulz and dooms the hopes of reform of Emmanuel Macron.

Alexander Mercouris

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Angela Merkel’s CDU party has a won a surprise victory in the state election in North Rhine Westphalia setting the scene for what now looks like her inevitable re-election in four months time.

The CDU’s victory by a convincing margin in North Rhine Westphalia is a bitter blow to the SPD.  North Rhine Westphalia is Germany’s most populous state and is the SPD’s traditional heartland state.  It is also the state where Martin Schulz – the SPD’s Chancellor designate – was born.  Moreover the leader of the local SPD Hannelore Kraft was a well regarded local politician who is widely admitted to have outshone during the state election her CDU rival Armin Laschet.

Just a few weeks ago the SPD was universally expected to win the North Rhine Westphalia election.   Instead on an increased turnout of 65% the SPD’s share of the vote crashed by 7% from the previous election, down from 39% to 32%, whilst the CDU’s increased its share of the vote from 26% to 33%, leaving the CDU the biggest party in the state parliament.  The new right wing party the AfD won 7.7%, enough to enter the local parliament but well below its own target of 10%.

What explains this remarkable turnaround?

There is no doubt that the CDU’s victory is a personal victory for Angela Merkel over her SPD rival Martin Schulz.  Her victory shows that the “Schulz effect”, which briefly caused the SPD to surge in the polls when Schulz was nominated the SPD’s Chancellor designate, has entirely dissipated just 100 days after Schulz’s nomination.  The result is that the SPD has slumped back to the disastrous level it was polling before Schulz was nominated

That is wholly unsurprising.  The “Schulz effect” shows that many Germans are tired of Angela Merkel and would welcome a genuine alternative.  However as I pointed out previously it is difficult to see in Schulz such an alternative.  Here is what I wrote about him in January shortly after he obtained the SPD’s nomination

it has to be said that as President of the European Parliament Schulz has been a devoted follower of the EU’s current orthodoxies at the very time that they have been coming under the strongest challenge both in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.  From outside Germany that doesn’t make Schulz a very obvious candidate to lead the SPD to victory against the rising tide of the AfD.

If anything the choice of Schulz appears to show how narrow the choice has become within Germany’s two big established parties – the CDU and SPD – a fact which in part explains why the AfD and Germany alternative hard left Die Linke are continuing to make inroads.

And here is what I wrote about him in February, when the SPD briefly passed the CDU in the opinion polls

News that a recent opinion poll has put the SPD for the first time one point ahead of Angela’s Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc has inevitably triggered speculation about whether or not she is now in serious danger of losing the forthcoming German parliamentary elections.

Schulz however differs little from Merkel on foreign policy questions, and the extent of his differences with Merkel on domestic issues is for an outsider difficult to judge.  The parliamentary elections are not due till November, and it is far obvious that Schulz will be able to sustain what for the moment looks very much like a bounce.

What could turn out to be an ephemeral lead by the SPD over Merkel does however show one thing: the extent to which Merkel’s hitherto impregnable position in German politics has weakened, and the extent to which many Germans have tired of her, and long for an alternative to her.

This is not because Merkel has been Chancellor for a long time.  In Germany’s incumbency confers a huge advantage, with Helmut Kohl in 1998 being the first Chancellor to lose a parliamentary election in Germany after the Second World War.  It is rather that with growing challenges in Europe and in Germany’s dealings with Donald Trump’s US, Merkel is looking increasingly short of answers.

Whether the German people will eventually decide that Martin Schulz is the person to find those answers is open to doubt, but his sudden rise in the polls shows how much desire for an alternative to Merkel there now is.

As is clear I have been dubious about Schulz from the moment the SPD nominated him its Chancellor designate, and I was never convinced that his poll lead over Merkel would last.

The simple fact is that Angela Merkel for all her many faults – about which I have written extensively – is within the context of German electoral politics an exceptionally successful politician.  Her success stems from three factors (1) an overriding focus on remaining Chancellor to which all other considerations are sacrificed (2) her extraordinary success in disposing of potential rivals and (3) the strength of the German economy whose export oriented businesses are benefitting disproportionately from the low interest rates and weak euro caused by the loose monetary policies of the European Central Bank even as Merkel’s insistence on Germany maintaining fiscal surpluses increases German competitiveness by containing wage growth and reducing domestic demand.

Points (1) and (3) incidentally seal the fate of Emmanuel Macron.  He has been elected President of France on an agenda of reforming the eurozone in order to adapt it to French needs.  However as Tsipras and Varoufakis discovered after Syriza won the 2015 elections in Greece, so Macron before long will discover that behind the honeyed words Merkel always uses to defuse opposition she is implacably opposed to any reform of the eurozone, since that might negatively effect, if only in the short term, the performance of the German economy upon whose continued growth her position as Chancellor depends.  Since Merkel’s overriding priority is to remain Chancellor at all costs that means that Macron’s hopes of reforming the eurozone are going to be stillborn.  Only if France had elected a President who gave the impression of being willing to take France out of the eurozone might Merkel have been panicked into carrying out the reforms Macron says he wants.  Since no one believes Macron will do that his fate and that of his reforms is sealed.

Which brings me to the larger point about Merkel.  I have previously discussed how her conservatism differs profoundly from that of her great rival Vladimir Putin

Though Putin and Merkel are often referred to as conservatives, in reality that does neither of them justice.

Though in many of his professed attitudes Putin is a conservative, he is also the leader of a dynamic and purposeful government which in the years he has been in power has transformed Russia, changing it more completely than any other country during the same period apart from China.

Merkel is more truly conservative in the sense that she sees herself as essentially Germany’s caretaker, preserving the German political and economic system unchanged from the way she found it.  Where Putin’s policies are marked by dynamism and change, her policies can be best described as immobilism bordering on stagnation.

Briefly, both in Germany and Europe Merkel is the great defender of the status quo, ensuring that nothing changes, and that things continue as they are.  Her whole position as Germany’s Chancellor depends on it.  It is a type of conservatism Europe has not seen since the age of Metternich.

Just as Metternich’s system was stifling for Europe, so Merkel’s is.  Metternich’s system, since it could not be changed, ended in crisis and revolution.  Perhaps in time the Europe of Angela Merkel – Europe’s present day Metternich – will go the same way.  However if that happens, it will be a long time before it does.  In the meantime those looking for a change of direction in Germany or Europe, whether in terms of economic or foreign policy, are about to have their hopes dashed.

 

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Why did Trump recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory?

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the reasons behind US President Trump’s sudden recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

Following Trump’s statements as US President, acting Israeli Foreign Minister is saying that Trump will make it official and sign an executive order to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian border territory on Monday.

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Via DW

Israel says White House officials are preparing an official document to codify support for Israel’s sovereignty of the Golan Heights, which will be signed by US President Donald Trump on Monday.

The signing of the decree will be witnessed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during talks with Trump at the White House, Israel’s acting foreign minister, Israel Katz (pictured), said in a Tweet.

“Tomorrow, President Trump, in the presence of PM Netanyahu, will sign a decree recognizing Israel’s sovereignty on the Golan. Israel-US ties are closer than ever,” Katz said.

Israel seized the strategic plateau from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war, subsequently annexing it in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.

Trump’s tweet annoys allies

Trump broke with decades of US Middle East policy when he posted a Tweet on Thursday that said it was time to accept Israel’s widely-contested claim to the border territory.

The decision has been criticized by many US allies — Germany, Britain, France and the EU have all said they still consider the Golan Heights to be “occupied” by Israel.

Syria and other states in the region said the recognition, if confirmed, would violate international law.

Netanyahu has long pushed for Washington’s endorsement, and many analysts see Trump’s comments as a campaign gift ahead of Israel’s April 9 election.

In 2017, Trump drew condemnation throughout the Middle East when he recognized the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

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Russia Gives US Red Line On Venezuela

Political force is out. Military force is out. Respect international law and Venezuela’s sovereignty. That’s Russia’s eminently reasonable ultimatum to Washington.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


At a high-level meeting in Rome this week, it seems that Russia reiterated a grave warning to the US – Moscow will not tolerate American military intervention to topple the Venezuelan government with whom it is allied.

Meanwhile, back in Washington DC, President Donald Trump was again bragging that the military option was still on the table, in his press conference with Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro. Trump is bluffing or not yet up to speed with being apprised of Russia’s red line.

The meeting in the Italian capital between US “special envoy” on Venezuelan affairs Elliot Abrams and Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov had an air of urgency in its arrangement. The US State Department announced the tête-à-tête only three days beforehand. The two officials also reportedly held their two-hour discussions in a Rome hotel, a venue indicating ad hoc arrangement.

Abrams is no ordinary diplomat. He is a regime-change specialist with a criminal record for sponsoring terrorist operations, specifically the infamous Iran-Contra affair to destabilize Nicaragua during the 1980s. His appointment by President Trump to the “Venezuela file” only underscores the serious intent in Washington for regime change in Caracas. Whether it gets away with that intent is another matter.

Moscow’s interlocutor, Sergei Ryabkov, is known to not mince his words, having earlier castigated Washington for seeking global military domination. He calls a spade a spade, and presumably a criminal a criminal.

The encounter in Rome this week was described as “frank” and “serious” – which is diplomatic code for a blazing exchange. The timing comes at a high-stakes moment, after Venezuela having been thrown into chaos last week from civilian power blackouts that many observers, including the Kremlin, blame on American cyber sabotage. The power grid outage followed a failed attempt by Washington to stage a provocation with the Venezuelan military over humanitarian aid deliveries last month from neighboring Colombia.

The fact that Washington’s efforts to overthrow the elected President Nicolas Maduro have so far floundered, might suggest that the Americans are intensifying their campaign to destabilize the country, with the objective of installing US-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido. He declared himself “acting president” in January with Washington’s imprimatur.

Given that the nationwide power blackouts seem to have failed in fomenting a revolt by the civilian population or the military against Maduro, the next option tempting Washington could be the military one.

It seems significant that Washington has recently evacuated its last remaining diplomats from the South American country. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented on the evacuation by saying that having US personnel on the ground “was limiting” Washington’s scope for action. Also, American Airlines reportedly cancelled all its services to Venezuela in the past week. Again, suggesting that the US was considering a military intervention, either directly with its troops or covertly by weaponizing local proxies. The latter certainly falls under Abrams’ purview.

After the Rome meeting, Ryabkov said bluntly: “We assume that Washington treats our priorities seriously, our approach and warnings.”

One of those warnings delivered by Ryabkov is understood to have been that no American military intervention in Venezuela will be tolerated by Moscow.

For his part, Abrams sounded as if he had emerged from the meeting after having been given a severe reprimand. “No, we did not come to a meeting of minds, but I think the talks were positive in the sense that both sides emerged with a better understanding of the other’s views,” he told reporters.

“A better understanding of the other’s views,” means that the American side was given a red line to back off.

The arrogance of the Americans is staggering. Abrams seems, according to US reporting, to have flown to Rome with the expectation of working out with Ryabkov a “transition” or “compromise” on who gets the “title of president” of Venezuela.

That’s what he no doubt meant when he said after the meeting “there was not a meeting of minds”, but rather he got “a better understanding” of Russia’s position.

Washington’s gambit is a replay of Syria. During the eight-year war in that country, the US continually proffered the demand of a “political transition” which at the end would see President Bashar al Assad standing down. By contrast, Russia’s unflinching position on Syria has always been that it’s not up to any external power to decide Syria’s politics. It is a sovereign matter for the Syrian people to determine independently.

Nearly three years after Russia intervened militarily in Syria to salvage the Arab country from a US-backed covert war for regime change, the American side has manifestly given up on its erstwhile imperious demands for “political transition”. The principle of Syrian sovereignty has prevailed, in large part because of Russia’s trenchant defense of its Arab ally.

Likewise, Washington, in its incorrigible arrogance, is getting another lesson from Russia – this time in its own presumed “back yard” of Latin America.

It’s not a question of Russia being inveigled by Washington’s regime-change schemers about who should be president of Venezuela and “how we can manage a transition”. Moscow has reiterated countless times that the legitimate president of Venezuela is Nicolas Maduro whom the people voted for last year by an overwhelming majority in a free and fair election – albeit boycotted by the US-orchestrated opposition.

The framework Washington is attempting to set up of choosing between their desired “interim president” and incumbent Maduro is an entirely spurious one. It is not even worthy to be discussed because it is a gross violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty. Who is Washington to even dare try to impose its false choice?

On Venezuela, Russia is having to remind the criminal American rulers – again – about international law and respect for national sovereignty, as Moscow earlier did with regard to Syria.

And in case Washington gets into a huff and tries the military option, Moscow this week told regime-change henchman Abrams that that’s a red line. If Washington has any sense of rationale left, it will know from its Syria fiasco that Russia has Venezuela’s back covered.

Political force is out. Military force is out. Respect international law and Venezuela’s sovereignty. That’s Russia’s eminently reasonable ultimatum to Washington.

Now, the desperate Americans could still try more sabotage, cyber or financial. But their options are limited, contrary to what Trump thinks.

How the days of American imperialist swagger are numbered. There was a time when it could rampage all over Latin America. Not any more, evidently. Thanks in part to Russia’s global standing and military power.

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With RussiaGate Over Where’s Hillary?

Hillary is the epitome of envy. Envy is the destructive sin of coveting someone else’s life so much they are obsessed with destroying it. It’s the sin of Cain. She envies what Trump has, the Presidency.

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Authored by Tom Luongo:


During most of the RussiaGate investigation against Donald Trump I kept saying that all roads lead to Hillary Clinton.

Anyone with three working brain cells knew this, including ‘Miss’ Maddow, whose tears of disappointment are particularly delicious.

Robert Mueller’s investigation was designed from the beginning to create something out of nothing. It did this admirably.

It was so effective it paralyzed the country for more than two years, just like Europe has been held hostage by Brexit. And all of this because, in the end, the elites I call The Davos Crowd refused to accept that the people no longer believed their lies about the benefits of their neoliberal, globalist agenda.

Hillary Clinton’s ascension to the Presidency was to be their apotheosis along with the Brexit vote. These were meant to lay to rest, once and for all time, the vaguely libertarian notion that people should rule themselves and not be ruled by philosopher kings in some distant land.

Hillary’s failure was enormous. And the RussiaGate gambit to destroy Trump served a laundry list of purposes to cover it:

  1. Undermine his legitimacy before he even takes office.
  2. Accuse him of what Hillary actually did: collude with Russians and Ukrainians to effect the outcome of the election
  3. Paralyze Trump on his foreign policy desires to scale back the Empire
  4. Give aid and comfort to hurting progressives and radicalize them further undermining our political system
  5. Polarize the electorate over the false choice of Trump’s guilt.
  6. Paralyze the Dept. of Justice and Congress so that they would not uncover the massive corruption in the intelligence agencies in the U.S. and the U.K.
  7. Isolate Trump and take away every ally or potential ally he could have by turning them against him through prosecutor overreach.

Hillary should have been thrown to the wolves after she failed. When you fail the people she failed and cost them the money she cost them, you lose more than just your funding. What this tells you is that she has so much dirt on everyone involved, once this thing started everyone went along with it lest she burn them down as well.

Burnin’ Down da House

Hillary is the epitome of envy. Envy is the destructive sin of coveting someone else’s life so much they are obsessed with destroying it. It’s the sin of Cain

She envies what Trump has, the Presidency.

And she was willing to tear it down to keep him from having it no matter how much damage it would do. She’s worse than the Joker from The Dark Knight.

Because while the Joker is unfathomable to someone with a conscience there’s little stopping us from excising him from the community completely., even though Batman refuses.

Hillary hates us for who we are and what we won’t give her. And that animus drove her to blackmail the world while putting on the face of its savior.

And that’s what makes what comes next so obvious to me. RussiaGate was never a sustainable narrative. It was ludicrous from the beginning. And now that it has ended with a whimper there are a lot of angry, confused and scared people out there.

Mueller thought all he had to do was lean on corrupt people and threaten them with everything. They would turn on Trump. He would resign in disgrace from the public outcry.

It didn’t work. In the end Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen and Roger Stone all held their ground or perjured themselves into the whole thing falling apart.

Andrew Weissman’s resignation last month was your tell there was nothing. Mueller would pursue this to the limit of his personal reputation and no further.

Just like so many other politicians.

Vote Your Pocketbook

With respect to Brexit I’ve been convinced that it would come down to reputations.

Would the British MP’s vote against their own personal best interests to do the bidding of the EU?

Would Theresa May eventually realize her historical reputation would be destroyed if she caves to Brussels and betrays Brexit in the end?

Always bet on the fecklessness of politicians. They will always act selfishly when put to the test. While leading RussiaGate, Mueller was always headed here if he couldn’t get someone to betray Trump.

And now his report is in. There are no new indictments. And by doing so he is saving his reputation for the future. And that is your biggest tell that HIllary’s blackmail is now worthless.

They don’t fear her anymore because RussiaGate outed her as the architect. Anything else she has is irrelevant in the face of trying to oust a sitting president from power.

The progressives that were convinced of Trump’s treason are bereft; their false hope stripped away like standing in front of a sandblaster. They will be raw, angry and looking for blood after they get over their denial.

Everyone else who was blackmailed into going along with this lunacy will begin cutting deals to save their skins. The outrage over this will not end. Trump will be President when he stands for re-election.

The Wolves Beckon

The Democrats do not have a chance against him as of right now. When he was caving on everything back in December it looked like he was done. That there was enough meat on the RussiaGate bones to make Nancy Pelosi brave.

Then she backed off on impeachment talk. Oops.

But the Democrats have a sincere problem. Their candidates have no solutions other than to embrace the crazy and go full Bolshevik. That is not a winning position.

Trump will kill them on ‘socialism.’

The Deep State and The Davos Crowd stand revealed and reviled.

If they don’t do something dramatic then the anger from the rest of the country will also be palpable come election time. Justice is not done simply by saying, “No evidence of collusion.”

It’s clear that RussiaGate is a failure of monumental proportions. Heads will have to roll. But who will be willing to fall on their sword at this point?

Comey? No. McCabe? No.

There is only one answer. And Obama’s people are still in place to protect him. I said last fall that “Hillary would indict herself.” And I meant it. Eventually her blackmail and drive to burn it all down led to this moment.

The circumstances are different than I expected back then, Trump didn’t win the mid-terms. But the end result was always the same. If there is no collusion, if RussiaGate is a scam, then all roads lead back to Hillary as the sacrificial lamb.

Because the bigger project, the erection of a transnational superstate, is bigger than any one person. Hillary is expendable.

Lies are expensive to maintain. The truth is cheap to defend. Think of the billions in opportunity costs associated with this. Once the costs rise above the benefits, change happens fast.

If there is any hope of salvaging the center of this country for the Democrats, the ones that voted against Hillary in 2016, then there is no reason anymore not to indict Hillary as the architect of RussiaGate.

We all know it’s the truth. So, the cheapest way out of this mess for them is to give the MAGApedes what they want, Hillary.

And hope that is enough bread and circuses to distract from the real storm ahead of us.

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