Election fever: what caused changes in the German government


Castling in favor of Russia

On Friday, January 27, the new Minister of foreign Affairs of Germany became Sigmar Gabriel, who before held the post of Minister of economy. The former foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier vying for the post of Federal President. Economic Department instead Gabriel will be headed by Brigitte zypris from justice.

Changes in the government — part of a reshuffle within the Social democratic party of Germany (SPD) before the parliamentary elections scheduled for September 24. The second most popular party in the country and the Junior partner of a coalition government led by the Christian democratic Union (CDU), the SPD seeks to retain the current positions in Parliament in the face of growing support for the nationalists.

Gabriel is interested in developing partnership relations with Russia, said Friday the official representative of the Ministry Martin Schaefer. “Russia is an important neighbor of Europe. It stands in the agenda of the new foreign Minister, otherwise can not be. It is an important partner for negotiations,” Schaefer told reporters in Berlin (quoted by RIA news).

Gabriel as Minister of foreign Affairs for Moscow is an acceptable figure, said the Agency DPA, Deputy Director of the Institute of Europe RAS Vladislav Belov. According to the expert, Gabrielle is configured to search for solutions instead of provoking conflicts. While waiting for a rapid warming of relations and the lifting of sanctions is still not worth it, says Belov. As Minister of Economics Gabriel advocated the easing of restrictions, but this was associated with the implementation of the Minsk agreements.

In the camp of the CDU Gabriel is considered a “friend of Russia”, said the German newspaper Die Zeit. In September 2016, in the midst of air strikes by the Russian space forces in Aleppo, he arrived in Moscow to meet with Vladimir Putin.

The Return Of Schultz

While Gabrielle is leaving the post of Chairman of the SPD, who served since 2009. At this place he recommended that the 61-year-old Martin Schulz, the past five years the former speaker of the European Parliament. The election of a new party leader will be held on 29 January at the Congress of the SPD, and the favorite is Schultz, the newspaper Die Welt.

In case of a victory on inner-party voting Schulz will head the election list of the SPD, which means the party’s nomination for the post of Chancellor. The election list of the Christian democratic Union headed by Angela Merkel (in November 2016, she announced the intention to nominate his candidacy for the post of Chancellor for a fourth term in case of victory of the CDU in the elections).

Political career Schultz is more concerned with a unified Europe than with Germany. The highest post which he held at home, — the mayor of the Westphalian city of würselen. In 1994, Schultz was first elected to the European Parliament, where he worked for more than 20 years. He was Deputy head of the delegation of the German social Democrats, the head of the entire center-left faction of the European Parliament, the European representative of the SPD, and finally the President of the European Parliament.

He is a staunch supporter of European integration, criticising the nationalists and eurosceptics. “In these difficult times our country needs new leadership, he said on Tuesday at a joint with Gabriel press conference (quoted by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung). Our sprawling on the part of society we need to fight the populists and radical enemies of democracy and our values. There should not be attacks on Europe. There should not be hatred of minorities”.

Schultz is critical of the foreign policy of Russia. In October 2016 in an interview with Deutsche Welle he condemned Moscow’s actions not only in Ukraine but also in Syria, urging to develop a “hard counter-strategy.” Schulz also advocated the retention of anti-Russian sanctions, although he recognizes the need for dialogue with Moscow on the Syrian and Ukrainian themes.

The attitude of Schultz to the position of European bureaucracy, said the main researcher, Institute of Europe RAS Vladimir Schweitzer: “These people do not consider themselves friends or enemies of Russia, and come from a European line, which has long been worked out: the implementation of the Minsk agreements as a condition of lifting sanctions.”

As told in Wednesday’s Handelsblatt Director of the sociological Bureau of Forsa Manfred Gullner, Schultz is a better candidate for the SPD from the point of view of electoral opportunities than Gabriel. According to the Infratest poll for ARD channel, 64% of Germans and 81% of supporters of the SPD is considered Schultz a worthy candidate “number one” for the social Democrats.

Moreover, according to the same survey, the popularity of Schultz caught up with the support of Merkel as head of government. For the positions of Chancellor and each of these politicians would like to see for 41% of Germans.

A change of President

The current President, Joachim gauck in the summer of 2016, has refused to run for a second term. In October at the suggestion of Gabriel, his candidacy exposed Steinmeier, who was supported by not only his party but also the CDU and the liberal Free democratic party (FDP).

Together, these parties hold 76% of the seats in the Federal Assembly (the Union of the Bundestag and regional parliaments, which selects the President). The agreement of the socialists, centrists and liberals on the nomination of Steinmeier makes his election almost inevitable, said chief researcher of the Institute of Europe RAS Vladimir Schweitzer.

The election of the President by the Federal Assembly is scheduled for 12 February.

Sprawling society

Pollsters Infratest received information about support for Schulz and Merkel, offering respondents a hypothetical situation of direct election of the Chancellor; in fact, the head of the Federal government are chosen by the Bundestag; thus, the key importance is the balance of power in Parliament.

In the last parliamentary elections in September 2013, the CDU received 41.5% of the vote, SPD 25.7 per cent. According to the coalition agreement, Merkel remained Chancellor, and representatives of the SPD included in the Federal government the rights of “Junior partners.”

Before the elections of 2017, the situation for the SPD hardly looks better. Posted on Friday, January 27, Infratest survey shows that led by Angela Merkel’s center-right CDU/CSU is ready to vote 35% of respondents. SPD comes in second place with support from 23%. In third with 14% — the ultra-conservatives of the “Alternative for Germany” (AfD) that pushed the “left” and “green,” whereas four years ago the AfD was not able to overcome the five percent barrier, receiving 4.7 percent of the votes.

Their support in society is growing. In September last year, the rating of the CDU dropped to 31%. This period saw the defeat of the CDU in the elections to the regional Parliament of Mecklenburg — Vorpommern, the poorest region in the North-East of the country. There is the ruling party there has lost the SPD and the AfD, with only 19% of the vote.

Increase support for radicals is associated with the influx of refugees and the related terrorist threat. Discontent with the policies of Merkel in relation to migrants has led to a drop in its rating. Its peak over the last four years was recorded before the migration crisis in April of 2015 her work on the post of the Chancellor was satisfied 75% of Germans, unhappy — only 23% of respondents. With the beginning of a wave of refugees to support Markel came down. By February 2016, it fell to a record low of 46%.

However, now the situation has stabilized. In January of this year, 56% approve of the activities of the Chancellor, according to Infratest. According to Schweitzer from the wounds, after the September elections, the political situation in the country will change slightly: the SPD will not be able to circumvent the number of mandates of CDU, triumph AfD to expect and not worth it.

“The coalition of the CDU/CSU with the social Democrats will continue, the struggle will go only for a few key positions in the government: for example for the management of economic and financial departments”, — said the expert.

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