Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) was expected to announce its candidate for September’s federal election on Sunday – and by all accounts leader Sigmar Gabriel seemed to have the nomination sewn up. Instead, the centre-left party surprised onlookers, announcing former European Parliament President Martin Schulz will take the reigns; Gabriel is expected to settle for foreign minister.
The rationale behind the decision is straightforward enough – Mr Schulz is more popular than his predecessor – but his path to the top job is anything but. Angela Merkel has shown remarkable resilience over the past 11 years and polls show her centre-right Christian Democrats still lead the pack. If they’re accurate, Ms Merkel is likely to be reinstated for a fourth term.
To unseat her, Mr Schulz will present himself as a bulwark against populists and attack the chancellor on her austerity policies, which he’ll argue are partially to blame for the continent’s populist resurgence.
But Schulz is a relative newcomer to domestic politics and has chosen to devote most of his career to European matters. This is likely to hurt his already slim chances of swiping the leadership.
Simon is the founder of Foreign Brief who served as managing director from 2015 to 2021. A lawyer by training, Simon has worked as an analyst and adviser in the private sector and government. Simon’s desire to help clients understand global developments in a contextualised way underpinned the establishment of Foreign Brief. This aspiration remains the organisation’s driving principle.