Merkel remains the frontrunner to put a governing coalition together, but the entry of Schulz as head of the Social Democrat Party (SPD), the second largest in Germany and part of the current ruling coalition, makes the election much more competitive. The latest polls show that, in terms of personal popularity, Schulz matches Merkel. Her advantages has been that her party, Christian Democratic Union (CDU), would receive a third of the parliamentary vote, and hence, be the largest bloc, a superior position to form a new government. But polls in the last few days show the two parties equal.
Both candidates support the EU and German membership, as does the public and elite opinion. But the super government in Brussels has taken two shocks with Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. On April 23, a Eurosceptic could win the French presidential election, which could be a fatal blow to the European experiment. But the entire year will likely see hostile campaigns and references about the EU from elections in the Netherlands and possibly Italy and regularly from Trump. Merkel’s problems include some general disapproval of her handling of the refugee crises, the rise of a farther right party, AfD, which has won some local elections and Schulz’s high- profile attacks on Trump, which is uniting the left and attracting some in the disaffected center.
Germany has greatly benefitted from the post-war era of a peaceful, unified Europe. It now dominates the continent’s markets and has little military cost due to the NATO alliance. But its center parties are still in some stress. They have shown weakness in recent state parliamentary elections and the political landscape has fragmented. Despite Germany’s main party’s commitment to Europe, questions abound.
- Will another Eurosceptic party take over an EU country in 2017?
- Will the EU still be viable by the September election?
- Will Trump continue to criticize the EU and NATO?
In general, can Merkel and the German center continue to benefit from the EU, or is the new nationalism in control?
DW.com: Schulz overtakes Merkel in opinion poll as favorite for German chancellor
The Spiegel: Meet the man who will challenge Merkel
Bloomberg: Merkel’s run for fourth term just got more complicated
Express: End for Merkel? Angela would be beaten by Martin Schulz if German election was held today
WSJ: German left rallies on Trump fears