SPD: After the slap in the face for the Chancellor, the party is seething

SPD: After the slap in the face for the Chancellor, the party is seething

The SPD is deeply shocked: almost 14 percent in the EU elections, a new negative record. What was the reason – and who was to blame? Unrest is ahead for Chancellor Scholz and the party leadership.

Olaf Scholz smiles ironically as he moves from one bistro table to the next, engaging in conversation and smiling into the selfie cameras. The message is clear: I’m not ducking away.

A small tremor has just gone through the Willy Brandt House, shaking the comrades. Nobody in the SPD had expected a strong increase in the EU elections – but this? The red bar shows 14 percent, even less than in 2019, the previous negative record.

Sigmar Gabriel, former SPD party leader, is shocked. “Nobody wants to take responsibility for the disastrous election campaign, nor for the completely wrong selection of election statements and certainly not for the selection of personnel,” he told the star. “The result is a punch in the stomach,” says Juso leader Philipp Türmer to star“but if we’re honest: one with a message.”

There is dead silence in the party headquarters in Berlin when the first predictions come in. The results are “dramatic,” say some. What is needed now is “pure social democracy.” And Scholz? The Chancellor smiles, chats, poses. Is it all not so bad? Certainly not. Strong earthquakes almost always lead to a series of smaller tremors – or an even more violent quake.

Olaf Scholz: Does the result have a face?

What was the reason – and who was to blame? That is what we will now discuss. One obvious reason is hard to miss, prominently and extensively placed in front of the Willy Brandt House, as in so many places in the Republic: an election poster with Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The Social Democrats had placed Scholz at the centre of their campaign, trying to position the Chancellor as a prudent and level-headed man in stormy times. But neither the peace sound nor the peace chancellor mobilised people. The latter carries far more weight.

Because the poor result is inevitably linked to Scholz (who was not even running for election) and shows that Scholz is perhaps more of a “lame horse” (Jens Spahn) than a driving force. Just before the three state elections in eastern Germany and the federal election in autumn 2025.

It speaks volumes that Secretary General Kevin Kühnert promptly stressed that the defeat could not be personified. He may also have said it on his own behalf: as the top election campaign strategist, he was primarily responsible for the campaign.

It was a “bitter defeat,” stressed party leaders Lars Klingbeil and Saskia Esken. EU lead candidate Katarina Barley also spoke of a “really bitter evening” on stage at the party headquarters. You can see the shock from that evening on her face. While Klingbeil hints at where the journey might now lead, her gaze wanders blankly through the atrium.

It is “crystal clear” that the party needs to do something differently, says co-leader Klingbeil, and announces a ruthless analysis. He then lists the core concerns of the SPD electorate, from rents to wages to pensions. There is no longer any talk of peace for the time being. “Our people want to see us fight,” says Klingbeil. This also applies to the discussions on the 2025 budget. The SPD must get “the best for our people.”

It was probably also a message to the Chancellor: to deliver, despite all resistance from the coalition partners, especially the FDP. Klingbeil is actually saying: The SPD wants to see Scholz fight and expects him to get the most out of it for the party.

The Chancellor had backed FDP Finance Minister Christian Lindner in the budget tussle and called for him to sweat, but by that he meant savings. There is a billion-euro hole to be plugged, which some in Berlin claim is around 30 billion euros. The SPD and the Greens are calling for a reform of the debt brake, but the FDP is staunchly opposed to it. Lindner even warned on Saturday of a coalition breakdown after SPD co-leader Klingbeil had criticized overly strict savings targets.

Now the Social Democrats have clearly had enough. Of the FDP’s constant blockades of legislation, their attacks on issues close to the hearts of the Social Democrats, and not least of all their rigid stance on the debt brake. And apparently also of the Chancellor, from whom “more SPD” is now being demanded in the traffic light coalition. They want to go on the offensive again, out of the moderation role that Scholz embodies.

“Lindner’s austerity budget endangers democracy”

Several comrades are calling for a change of course, using some drastic words after the election shock – but they are not only holding Scholz accountable, but also the party leadership.

“It is wrong to blame everything on the government,” says former SPD leader Gabriel, although the government has clearly been punished. Something else makes him “sad and angry”: “Having to watch as, after such a bitter defeat, the professional healers and yes-men are already preparing how to get back to business as usual the day after tomorrow at the latest.” The word “responsibility” does not appear in the “well-crafted political technocratic language”; they only ever talk about precise error analyses. “Apparently, everyone is only thinking about how to somehow stay in their chairs tomorrow,” says Gabriel.

Juso leader Türmer also chooses clear words. Neither the SPD nor the other traffic light parties have found answers to the massive pessimism in society, says Juso leader Türmer. What is now needed is a promise of progress for the country and a clear promise of advancement for each individual, demands Juso leader Türmer. “But that will only work if the SPD rejects Lindner’s austerity budget, which endangers democracy.” The debt brake must be abolished, the economy and the welfare state must be strengthened, and the climate crisis must be consistently combated. “The 2025 federal budget must be used precisely for this.”

Sebastian Roloff, a member of the party executive committee, also complained about a “dramatic result” that clearly showed that the campaign “did not work”. The Chancellor and his moderation skills are not the only arrow in the SPD’s quiver. Roloff calls for “more social, more economic development, more SPD” for the budget negotiations. Jan Dieren from the leadership circle of the Parliamentary Left in the SPD faction makes a similar argument. “People expect social democratic policies from an SPD-led government. And rightly so.” But that does not fit well with the prospect that the draft budget provides for far-reaching cuts. What is needed now is “pure social democracy”.

The Chancellor is supposed to deliver it. The attempt to score points with prudence has clearly failed. A change of strategy is needed, that much seems clear. The board and presidium meeting is scheduled for Monday. The first aftershocks?

Later on Sunday evening, projections replaced forecasts. The SPD continued to drop to 13.9 percent.

Source: Stern

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