The SPD’s decision to select Martin Schulz, the German President of the European Parliament, as its Chancellor designate in this year’s German parliamentary elections, has stirred some speculation of a more substantive challenge to German Chancellor Merkel’s CDU party from the SPD.
It is possible that Schulz may lift the SPD from its present moribund position, into which it has fallen in part as a result of its compliant role in Merkel’s coalition. As an outsider Schulz does look better placed to challenge Merkel than the SPD’s previous leader Sigmar Gabriel who has been Merkel’s loyal Vice-Chancellor. Moreover Schulz is known to be a somewhat more abrasive politician than Gabriel, a quality the SPD will certainly need if it is to raise its profile.
Against all this however 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.