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German elections: The decade-old rule of Angela Merkel comes to a close?

German elections: The decade-old rule of Angela Merkel comes to a close?

By Koustubh Tol

On 6th March 2017, the pollsters INSA institute carried out a survey for Germany’s Bild newspaper that predicted that the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) would lead against Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). This shift marks the first of its kind in over a decade since Angela Merkel took over as the Chancellor of Germany in late 2005.

The incumbent chancellor faces major competition from Mr Martin Schulz of the SPD.  For Germany, which is in many ways the cornerstone of the European Union, the upcoming elections for the office of Federal Chancellor are of the utmost importance. With just 6 months left until the elections, the recent poll survey has split the battle wide open.

Martin Schulz: A new beginning for Germany?

Mr Martin Schulz is a veteran politician who comes from a humble background. He was born in Western Germany’s Rhineland near the border with the Netherlands and Belgium. The 61-year old contender came into public limelight in 2012 when he took over as President of the European Parliament. It was during his term that Europe faced one of its biggest challenges: Brexit. 

Mr Schulz is a former Eurocrat and one of the leading federalists in the European Union. He left European politics late last year to try his hand in the upcoming Federal Chancellor elections in Germany. Having spent more than two decades as MEP (Member of European Parliament), he has hit the bull’s eye by becoming the face of SPD in the upcoming elections.

During his time as President of European Parliament, Schulz has been critical of the British Government under David Cameroon. He famously said about Brexit: “Britain has taken a whole continent hostage for a party’s internal struggle”. Late last year, Mr Schulz threatened to have “the hardest BREXIT possible” if the MEPs were not included in the talks.

Though the recent poll may have predicted a lead for Mr Schulz, it must be noted that Germany follows Parliamentary democracy. To win the seat of Chancellor, Schulz will have to struggle to gather public vote and make necessary coalitions. Though its just the start of the campaigning phase in Germany, Martin Schulz’s emergence as the strongest competitor of Angela Merkel has surely turned the heads around the world.

Merkel’s downfall

Ever since Brexit, a wave of populism has grappled the western world. After Donald Trump’s historic win in US Presidential Elections in November, many have started seeing Angela Merkel as the new leader of the world. But the situation is far more complicated for the German Chancellor than it seems.

Angela Merkel has dominated German politics since over a decade. But the times have changed now. In a press conference in February 2017, she was quoted as saying “This will be the hardest election campaign I have ever fought”. And she maybe right. Ever since the refugee crisis in the middle-east, Germany has seen a huge inflow of refugees in its country – a move, many fear, won’t go down well with her supporters. In fact, Merkel’s sister party Christian Social Union (CSU) even threatened to withdraw support unless she agreed to limit the intake of refugees. Adding to the list of problems, there has been a rise in public anger ever since the Berlin attack in December last year.

With Martin Schulz seeing a wave of support spreading across Germany, Merkel’s chances of returning to power may have become even thinner. Though it is early to predict a winner, a fierce political battle is surely going to dominate Germany in the next six months.

Featured Image Credits: Proyecto

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