Martin Schulz puts federal European Union at centre of election campaign

Elias Hubbard
June 27, 2017

Schulz's SPD are 14 percentage points behind Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavaria-based Christian Social Union sister party three months before a national election on September 24.

With Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) slumping in the polls, its leader called on the party to take on Chancellor Angela Merkel in a September election on a program of investment, social justice and a stronger Europe.

Despite Schulz' energetic performance, polls now give Merkel's conservatives a double-digit national lead and show the Social Democrats sagging following a surge earlier this year.

To that end, Schulz has focused much of his campaign on social justice. Both parties hope to escape the "grand coalition" in which they now govern Germany together.

Schulz was in a combative mood at Sunday's special congress gathering party rank-and-file to approve their campaign programme, with harsh words for Merkel whom he accused of launching an "attack against democracy" by "systematically refusing debate on the future of the country".

"We are living in a time of upheaval".

He said the SPD aims to strengthen Europe by stressing the values of human dignity and by investing in innovation. Some 40 percent of members who have joined since Schulz's nomination are under 35, says Jusos, the youth branch of the SPD.

"I have fought for these ideas through my life".

Mr Schulz rejected big increases in defence spending, in particular on weapons.

But the reality of having lost power in two state elections and failing to win in a third this year has knocked morale despite the cheers and red flags emblazoned with "Time for Martin Schulz" slogans evident in Dortmund on Sunday.

As the number of refugees arriving in Germany has fallen sharply, many voters have forgiven Dr Merkel for her open-door migrant policy and see her as a safe pair of hands, especially on the global stage.

Matthias Zeller, a 21-year-old Social Democratic activist, caused a stir in Germany when he enthused on national television that his party's new leader Martin Schulz was a "geile Sau" - which loosely translates as "sexy beast".

"This is our chance".

Despite the widening lead, Merkel's CDU/CSU is far short of a majority and might have a hard time finding a junior coalition partner.

"Nothing has been decided yet", said Schroeder, 73, who was chancellor from 1998 to 2005. Many voters wait until the last minute before making up their minds, he said, adding "that is our chance".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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