Following the sudden ascendance of Martin Schulz as their new leader, Social Democrats in Germany have gone through a delirium of optimism, hoping that the former EP President’s “popularity” and “leadership” would boost their chances to win the national elections in September. The media wrote about “Saint Martin”, “Martin the Saviour”, and of a “Schulz-Effect” – and opinion polls suggested that the Social Democrats were now ahead of Angela Merkel’s CDU. Only last week Schulz was elected the new president of the Socialist Party with 100% of delegates’ votes.
Well, the hype didn’t last long. The regional elections in the tiny region of Saarland have proven the pollsters completely wrong: instead of the predicted neck-to-neck race between Socialists and CDU, they resulted in more than 40% of the votes for the CDU lead by Regional Prime Minister Annegret Karamp-Karrenbauer, with the Socialists even below 30%. This is not just a defeat, it is a humiliation.
Merkel may be increasingly unpopular due to her controversial handling of the refugee crisis – but the prospect of seeing the region governed by a coalition that, led by the Socialists, would have included the radical (= Green) and the extreme Left (= Die Linke) was not appealing either.
But even after this defeat, Schulz seems unwilling to give up his dream of a coalition with former Communists.