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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Is the SPD in crisis?

A new Stern-RTL poll out yesterday, widely reported in the German media, has Angela Merkel’s CDU on 43%, and the SPD, the main opposition party on only 23% - its lowest since July 2011 and equal to the actual share of votes won in the 2009 elections. Not being able to better this after a spell in opposition would be seen as disastrous, and could suggest Germany’s longest serving political party is in long term decline:

SPD vote share since re-unification

Equally worryingly for the party, its Chancellor candidate (German parties don’t have fixed ‘leaders’) Peer Steinbrück gets absolutely thrashed in head to head polling with Merkel, only winning 18% to her 58%. This has led to other senior figures in the party having to deny speculation that he could possibly replaced. Notwithstanding the confusion and mixed signals this would cause, the SPD doesn’t really have a credible ‘Plan B’ - Steinbrück – a successful Finance Minister during the 2005 – 2009 Grand Coalition – easily won the nomination ahead of other potential nominees.

The poll highlights Merkel’s remarkable electoral resilience and highlights the extent to which she is seen as a safe pair of hands during a period of huge economic and political uncertainty. It remains to be seen how the SPD will respond to this dire polling, for instance, could it be tempted to more strongly differentiate its eurozone policy which rhetoric aside has been relatively close to that of the government?

Of course we still have a long way to go till September, and plenty could happen in the meantime, especially given the low growth forecast for the coming year. Equally, given the country’s electoral system, a change of a couple of percentage points for any of the parties could produce radically different government constellations; a continuation of the CDU-FDP coalition, another Grand Coalition, a SPD-Green coalition, even a CDU-Green coalition has been suggested. The result will be significant for the rest of Europe including the UK, as Merkel is more likely to be sympathetic to EU reform than the SPD or Greens.

This Sunday’s regional elections in Lower Saxony will be an interesting forerunner as in a reflection of the national trend the CDU – led by the popular half-German half-Scottish David McAllister – is clearly in the lead, but in the absence of a coalition partner, with the FDP below the the 5% threshold, power could pass to a SPD-Green coalition.

1 comment:

Rik said...

The SPD are making all the mistakes imaginable.
-Unlike Blair they have not really renewed themselves structurally. Blair made it a modern party. The SPD simply havenot done that to the same extent. While at the same time they allowed competition in the Greens. Who have established themselves as a more modern alternative and important for a Green party a party that could be part of a government (not a club of weird organic soybean eaters, as yoyu see sometimes with Green parties). Basically splitting the left vote in 2. What should be the great fear for the Conservatives in the UK, if the UKIP would become a credible party it would split the right vote in the UK.
Basically because of the Greens SPD is now more or less the standard no2, while before they competed with CDU/CSU for the top spot.
Those are the structural issues: competition on the left that came up and worked and not renewing the party. One thing influencing the other of course.

2. Current policies simply donot look to appeal. Stating basically that mass tranfers should go to the EZs South and pro-Eurobonds while 70% or so of the Germans are against will not give you many new votes. Still archaic thinking that their voters are looking for international solidarity and that kind of stuff while most simply want more money for themselves. And as well thinking that because people voted for you, it gives you a mandate to persue your historic views. While a lot of voting is done on traditional and the least worse possible alternative reasons.
Basically a standard problem in traditional European political parties. They usually start to take their voters serious first after these have moved to other parties.

3. The leader is plainly said crap. The guy knows the technical stuff (finance) but knows very little about politics (or hide it very well) and doesnot appeal to a lot of people anyway.
Involved in all sorts of smaller scale scandals (no problem in Italy but sure one in Germany,Holland or Scandinavia).

4. Campaigning. Same quality as the leader:crap. Stress on points that are unlikely to appeal to many people.

5. Alternatives for leadership. Look btw hardly better.

So unless Merkel gets involved in child pornography or drugdealing she will be the largest party. But as a lot of the vote is rather traditional, movements are not that big so unlikely with a majority by herself. So she needs at least one of the other 3 mainstream parties very likely (Greens, SPD, FDP) to form a government).
Preferred option the FDP politically most similar so less concessions will be required and the weakest of the 3. But is not very liklely to make the 5% required.