German Chancellor Angela Merkel is embarking on her toughest campaign to date, running for a fourth term amid growing backlash over her open door policy that has seen the country fill with more than one million refugees. Several new political parties have risen in the wake of the public frustration, including the extremist Alternative for Germany (AfD), but their numbers are just not expected to result in a candidate of their own winning the top spot this year. So who can take Merkel on? Her coalition party, the Social Democrats (SPD), look to have the greatest chance at taking the chancellor on, and inside sources are claiming that the party will announce long-standing chairman Sigmar Gabriel as their man to get the job done.
“no way around Sigmar Gabriel as candidate”
Gabriel currently serves as Germany’s vice chancellor and economy minister, so he is no stranger to the job. During his four-year term, Gabriel was able to push key SPD policies into law, including the country’s first minimum wage requirement and an overhaul of its pension system. The question however is whether or not his close connection to Merkel will make him appear as one and the same.
Recent poll numbers suggest that Gabriel might actually make it easier for Merkel to stay on for another term. His own popularity falls behind the German chancellor, and while a senior party source told Reuters that there is “no way around Sigmar Gabriel as candidate for chancellor at this point,” he wouldn’t be the first choice for many of the party members and voters.
Martin Schulz, who formerly served as president of the European Parliament, fares much better in the polls, but with the party expected to name him as foreign minister once Frank-Walter Steinmeier assumes the role as German president on February 12, all likelihood for a Schulz candidacy is about to go out the window.
The SPD is not expected to make their formal decision until the end of January, but with the newly released poll by German broadcaster ARD showing Merkel grabbing 37 percent of the vote versus the SPD’s 20 percent, the party will have their work cut out for them as they try to close the gap.