Some Christian Democrats may expect worse results for the SPD if the Rhinelander becomes its candidate for chancellor
In January 2017, the agreed term of SPD politician Martin Schulz as European president will expire. Six months earlier, several leading CDU/CSU politicians stressed that they were against a renewed presidency for Rhinelander, which he was rumored to be seeking.
According to information from the daily newspaper Die Welt, the CDU presidium decided this week not to support Schulz in the process. Rhineland-Palatinate CDU state chairwoman Julia Klockner told the newspaper that in the de facto grand coalition of Social Democrats and Christian Democrats in the European Parliament there were "an agreement that there will be a change after his term in office" and since they consider Schulz to be a "Man of honor" If they hold "that he will stick to the promises he has made to himself." Gerda Hasselfeldt, the leader of the CSU in the Bundestag, also spoke of a "unambiguous agreement", that the post will be taken over by a Christian Democrat from the EPP group in January 2017.
It does not always have to be a German
It is not yet clear who the Christian Democrats will present as Schulz’s successor. An obvious candidate has not emerged so far. It is possible that the German supremacy will be somewhat mitigated and a candidate from another country will be proposed. In addition to the CDU (29 MEPs) and the CSU (5), the EPP Group also includes Sarkozy’s French party Les Republicains (19), the Polish Platforma Obywatelska (19), Prime Minister Rajoy’s Spanish Partido Popular (16), the Italian parties Forza Italia (11) and Nuovo Centrodestra (3), the Hungarian parties Fidesz (10) and KDNP (2), the Romanian parties PNL (8), UDMR (2) and PMP (1), the Portuguese parties PSD (6) and CDS-PP (1), the Bulgarian parties GERB (6) and DSB (1), the Greek Nea Dimokratia (5), the Dutch CDA (5), the Austrian People’s Party (5), the Irish Fine Gael (4), the Croatian parties HDZ (4) and HSS (1), the Latvian Vienotība (4), the Czech parties TOP09 (4) and KDU-CSL (3), the Swedish parties Moderata Samlingspartiet (3) and Kristdemokraterna (1), the Finnish KKS (3), the Slovenian SDS (3), the Slovak parties KDH (3), SDKÚ-DS (1) and Most-HId (1), the Walloon CDH (2), the Flemish CDV (2), the Lithuanian TS-LKD (2), the Maltese PN (2), the Cypriot DISY (2), the Slovakian-Hungarian SMK-MKP (1), the Catalan UDC (1), the Danish Konservative Folkeparti (1) and the Estonian IRPL (1). However, it is considered unlikely that a Fidesz deputy will become Commission president because of the tense relationship between the Hungarian Orban government and the EU Commission and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. the same goes for the deputies of Forza Italia.
Behind the scenes at the federal level
Perhaps, however, the CDU has not only the European level in mind, but also the federal level: There, some Christian Democrats may be hoping that the SPD will succumb to the temptation to make Schulz its candidate for chancellor in the federal election in the fall of 2017 if it no longer accommodates him according to its ideas in Brussel – and that the Social Democrats will then do somewhat worse than they did with Sigmar Gabriel.
In fact, it is questionable whether Schulz will be well received outside the bubble of social democratic functionaries: His speeches are brimming with pathos and he comes across as humorless and super-teachy – a bit like Rudolf Scharping, with whom the SPD experienced a disaster in the 1994 Bundestag elections.
Observers attribute the fact that the SPD won 27.3 percent of the vote in the last European election, in which it campaigned with Schulz, 6.4 percent higher than in the previous European election, in part to the party’s promise to German voters that, if it won, Martin Schulz would be a German – and not a Luxembourger – president of the EU Commission.
Devastating image in other EU countries
In many of the other 27 EU states, however, candidate Schulz seems to have had precisely the opposite effect: There, social democratic parties lost heavily. In Ireland, for example, the Labour Party’s share of the vote fell by more than half.
Nigel Farage vs. Martin Schulz
Five years earlier, voices had already been raised in the Socialist Group demanding that, after the devastating losses in the 2009 European Parliament elections, one could by no means continue as before and that Schulz, with whom such a policy did not seem possible, should be replaced. According to observers, the fact that the Rhinelander retained his post as Social Democratic parliamentary group leader at the time and later even became EU Parliament president is due in no small part to a legacy regulation for EU parliamentarians that he helped push through, allowing them to formally employ family members as assistants at taxpayer expense and to increase their monthly income by up to 15.496 euros.