Berlin (dpa) – The SPD’s Sigmar Gabrielization did not materialize. An influential MP had warned about this horror scenario in January in an interview for the SPD faction in the Reichstag building, when many people could still meet there and did not have to fear Corona.
The MP was annoyed that newly elected party leaders Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans rushed to the public with one new idea after another – without voting in the party or organizing supporters. It could not go on like this, said the Social Democrat at the time. “Otherwise the Sigmar-Gabrielization of the SPD threatens.” A spontaneity, as under former party leader Gabriel. What has happened since then and what are the outlook for the SPD?
BACKGROUND: On June 2, 2019, Andrea Nahles triggered unprecedented self-activity from the SPD with the announcement of her resignation from the party leadership. After a long tour of Germany of six candidate duos, 53 percent voted for Bundestag member Esken and former NRW Finance Minister Walter-Borjans – only 45 percent for Klara Geywitz of Brandenburg and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. On December 6, 2019, Esken and Walter-Borjans were elected as new chairmen at an SPD party conference in Berlin.
START: In the beginning it was quite a mess. Esken and Walter-Borjans lacked their own team in the Willy Brandt House and a clearly recognizable plan. Large sections of the party establishment looked at every step with suspicion. Critical and even malicious comments dominated the audience. Esken and Walter-Borjans shake their heads with interviews. Sometimes they demanded a maximum speed, sometimes a new tax on land speculation.
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE SPD: Of all people, among the two major critics Esken and Walter-Borjans, the SPD has been ruling smoothly for months with one law after another. SPD Prime Minister, Group Chairman, Minister – no one feels upset, everyone seems to be okay with their role. In the SPD, Basta politics and internal quarrels actually seem to belong to the past. Walter-Borjans says, “The frequent and intensive exchange with SPD members and officials in the area – currently largely online of course – with up to 800 participants at times, remains important support.”
STATE OF THE COALITION: And also the permanent row in the coalition from the first half of the election period seems a long time ago. But that is mainly because the government does not have time, but has had to steer the country through a fundamental crisis since March. It is extraordinary that SPD group leader Rolf Mützenich accused Bavaria’s head of government, Markus Söder, in an interview with inappropriate self-presentation during the crisis: “I am amazed at how theatrical and self-indulgent the Bavarian prime minister has returned after the prime minister’s conference.”
PROMISE: With much of the SPD’s internal election campaign and early days as bosses, Esken and Walter-Borjans were unable to triumph. Above all, her Groko criticism ebbed away without any visible consequence. They wanted to talk to the Union about improvements in the coalition course. However, an important requirement has become a reality. “If the black zero stands in the way of a better future for our children, then it is wrong, then it must go”, Walter-Borjans had demanded. In the meantime, the Union has also given up its long-standing mantra that the debt brake is sacred. However, not because the SPD had convinced them, but because of the Corona crisis, which no one suspected a year ago.
SIGNIFICANT SUCCESS: The top duo of the SPD takes credit for the fact that many important decisions have been made in the coalition commission under Chancellor Angela Merkel over the past twelve months. They, too, had made the body in the chancery a motor for political decisions. However, it should be noted that Vice Chancellor and Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz has significant say in the current economic crisis.
SUCCESS WITH THE VOTERS: A year ago Esken was asked: “What are the goals you want to achieve by the end of 2020?”. She replied, “Approval values for the SPD of 30 percent and maybe more.” In the German trend published by ARD on Thursday, the SPD is 15 percent – Greens: 21 percent, CDU / CSU: 36 percent. Among the most popular politicians, SPD Chancellor candidate Scholz is fourth behind Merkel, Health Minister Jens Spahn and Söder, losing eight points. For the federal election campaign, the SPD mainly relies on one woman: Angela Merkel. Or rather, the Union’s voters are shocked in time to realize that it will soon be the end of what feels like the eternal chancellor.
OUTLOOK: The SPD no longer wants a grand coalition after the elections. But there is currently much, much less speculation about a red-red-green or a traffic light alliance in the government district than there is about black-green. Esken is not deterred by this. “What could not be negotiated with the CDU / CSU shows how urgently we need a progressive alliance under the SPD leadership in Germany,” she says. Esken mentions a few points, such as ‘more respect in the labor market’ or reducing inequalities in the country. One thing you hear over and over from the SPD these days: Right before the start of a federal election campaign, it has probably never been more unpredictable than the next few months like this time during the Corona Christmas season.