The SPD Vice Chancellor and Economics Minister Sigmar "Sigi Pop" Gabriel had a much-publicized meeting with the co-chairs of the Left Party, Katja Kipping und Bernd Riexinger. This is an implicit but notable reminder that the SPD does have other political options than being the subservient junior partner in a Grand Coalition (GroKo) with Merkel at the head.
I thought last year after the Bundestag elections that the SPD leadership was nuts in rushing to form a new GroKo Merkel's CDU. The SPD, the Left Party and the Greens together have a majority in the Bundestag. If they had all hung together and refused to make a coalition with Merkel, the (conservative) President Joachim Gauck would have been almost certain to have asked the second-place SPD to form a government, which they have the votes to do with the Left and the Greens together, if the three parties could come to agreement. (There was an option that could have forced another election but it's irrelevant to this political calculation.)
So Sigi Pop is now openly waving that option in Frau Merkel's face! I didn't think he had it in him.
This article with the eye-catching title, Nikolaus Blome et al, Queen's Quandary: Chancellor Merkel's Power Erodes in Europe Spiegel International 06/24/2014, conveys the impression that Sigi Pop is doing a good job at the moment of looking serious about this:
One day after the mealtime debate, Gabriel, who is also Germany's economy minister, spoke to journalists during a tour of the Airbus facility in Toulouse. European policies have to be revisited, Gabriel said. "The focus on pure austerity policies has failed," he claimed.Merkel the Austerity Queen. I like it.
The reporters couldn't believe their ears. Did he really just say that? Is Gabriel in the process of turning away from the highly touted Stability Pact after years of backing German Chancellor Angela Merkel's euro-crisis strategy? Is he trying to pick a fight with Europe's austerity queen?
The piece gives us some hope that Europe's Social Democrats are finally starting to read the handwriting on the wall that's been there for some time saying that they can't be credible center-left parties by pursuing hardline Herbert Hoover/Heinrich Brüning austerity policies:
Merkel's authority in Brussels has been partly due to her complete lack of rivals in Germany. [my emphasis]That line in itself is a sad commentary on the pitiful state into which the SPD has fallen!
She has, of course, always had critics in German parliament, but never a powerful adversary. Now, though, her own vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel -- leader of the center-left Social Democrats, her coalition partners -- seems to be turning on her. He is seeking to present himself as a man who wants to hold Europe together, and is making Merkel look like a miserly bookkeeper.Given Sigi Pop's and the SPD's sad record over the last decade, I'm very skeptical that this is serious. But we can all hope!
Gabriel's plan is not without risk. Merkel's team has already begun quietly accusing Gabriel of acting against Germany's best interests. And with the smooth functioning of her government dependent on a strong relationship between her and her deputy, the Merkel-Gabriel spat could ultimately become a threat to the stability of the chancellor's coalition.
Gabriel is aware of the dangers. But he believes that the advance of European right-wing populists can only be stopped if the economic situation in crisis-torn EU countries improves quickly -- and he's more than happy to help hold the queen of Europe in check. That also explains why he is prepared to form alliances with those who would like to see Merkel's reign come to an end, François Hollande above all. [my emphasis]
This is the context in which which a hissy fit on the part of Merkel's party and some of the SPD to stigmatize a Left Party Bundestag member who called German President Joachim Gauck a "widerlicher Kriegshetzer" ("disgusting warmonger") has to be seen. They want to block any move by the SPD to try to create a center-left/left coalition to replace Merkel.
Norbert Müller made the comment on his Facebook page in response to general calls by Gauck for Germany to get involved in more wars and military commitment. Gee, he could have said something really bad about Gauck. For instance, he could have said he's starting to sound like Dick Cheney!
Tags: angela merkel, austerity economics, eu, euro, european union, françois hollande, sigmar gabriel