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June 21, 2017

Why has the SPD deflated?

Allensbach may not necessarily be the most accurate of the German polling institutes, but it provides some of the most detailed polling analyses we know. The latest poll has the CDU/CSU at 40% and the FDP at 10.5%, which would be enough for the two parties to form a coalition even if the AfD were to be represented in the Bundestag. The AfD polls at 6.5%, just barely above the 5% threshold. If it falls below, a CDU/CSU/FDP coalition would be even more probable.

The SPD, at 24%, is now below the result it achieved in the 2013 elections. Even more dramatic is the reversal of fortunes for Martin Schulz personally. At the beginning of the year, he led Angela Merkel by 39-24 in approval ratings. This is now more than reversed - with 45-20 in favour of Merkel.

Why is this happening?

It is not programmes. The CDU/CSU has not yet produced its manifesto, nor have they made any concrete announcements about the future direction of fiscal policy. Both parties are promising a stimulus of €15bn, around 0.2% of GDP, and none would risk violating the balanced-budget rule. 

In her accompanying analysis, Renate Kocher of Allensbach writes in the FAZ that the main reason for this change is not related to Schulz, but to a shift in the external environment. German disillusionment with Merkel’s refugee policy came and went, while other areas have become more important, such as internal and external security and other global challenges. The SPD’s campaign on social justice generally meets with sympathy, but is not a vote clincher given the high rates of satisfaction with the economic situation - the highest for twenty years. Another factor is that there is a growing conviction within the population that Schulz does not offer real change.

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June 21, 2017

Berlusconi’s strategy

Silvio Berlusconi is potentially one of the key players in the next Italian elections. In his column in La Repubblica, Stefano Folli offers a number of important observations, noting that Berlusconi has very much shifted back to the centre, and away from the more eurosceptic Lega to a position where he can be part of a government coalition with the PD. His court case in Strasbourg to challenge the judicial ban on his holding political office casts him in an electorally effective victim role. Part of his strategy was now to reconnect with Europe’s political centre. The new president of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, a member of Berlusconi’s party, could play a central role in this effort. While Berlusconi is distancing himself from the Lega, he remains close to the Fratelli d’Italia, a nationalist organisation but less dogmatic on EU withdrawal than the Lega has become under its leader Matteo Salvini. Folli notes that the benchmark for success at the next elections is 18% for FI, which is not unrealistic given both Matteo Renzi and Beppe Grillo have experienced difficulties while Berlusconi and his party have been largely unaffected. There are divisions within the FI about strategy. The alliance with the Lega is supported especially by northern members of the party. Folli concludes that, since none of the alliances will ever come close to the majority premium of 40% (a threshold that guarantees an absolute majority of MPs), it may make sense for FI to run on its own, without allies.

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