February 06, 2017
The Schulz effect, mark III
Martin Schulz hasn't really said much, so the dramatic rise in the SPD's poll ratings cannot be explained in terms of policies. Then again, Angela Merkel doesn't say much either. The latest opinion poll, by Emnid, has the gap between the CDU/CSU and the SPD down to only 4pp, so we are now, for the first time since the Schröder days, in a position where the gap is within the statistical error margin of the polls - something we should take seriously especially given the experience of last year. That gap has shrunk from 14pp only a week earlier.
Here is the latest Emnid poll:
Apart from the shrunken gap, the other noteworthy aspect is that both the Greens and the Left Party have lost 2pp each. This means that more than half of the SPD's gain is compensated by a loss by those smaller parties. The SPD's gains thus do not make a so-called red-red-green coalition more likely. The combined share of the three parties is 45%, whereas the other three parties are at 50%. That's the gap SPD/Greens/Left Party have yet to climb to be able to form a coalition.
But the rise in the SPD's poll ratings gives the SPD some alternative choices. If Schulz manages to close the gap with the CDU/CSU, he could insist on entering another grand coalition as an equal partner, possibly with a claim to the chancellorship, or at least to sharing the chancellorship over a four-year period. We do not think that Schulz would let Merkel, or another CDU politician, remain at the top for four years. So, expect significant political confrontations to arise after the elections if the SPD does well.
The rise in the SPD's poll ratings is also partly due to the divisions between CDU and its Bavarian sibling the CSU. This report in Die Welt says that between 20-30% of CSU voters reject the decision by Horst Seehofer, CSU chairman, to support Merkel and her refugee policies, the main area of disagreement between the two allied parties. His popularity ratings have plummeted by 11pp within a month. The article also makes the point that Seehofer has a thin skin and quotes him as saying that victory in politics falls to those who are united.