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Deutschland Bundestag in Berlin - Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

Germany with Merkel in 2017?

September 6, 2016

Outspoken Social Democrat Ralf Stegner has postulated that Chancellor Angela Merkel has overshot her "zenith." Her general secretary Peter Tauber has demanded conservative "cohesion" as more elections loom in Germany.

https://p.dw.com/p/1JwWR

Stegner, who often vocalizes blunt views among Social Democrats (SPD) currently sharing power in the federal coalition government headed by Merkel, on Tuesday asked whether "she still has her party behind her?"

The remarks by the Social Democrat vice-chairman were the latest in the "blame game" - focused on refugee policy - since Merkel's Christian Democratic (CDU) was relegated to third place in Sunday's Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania election.

Ralf Stegner SPD Politiker Kritik an de Maizière
Merkel is past her peak, suggests SPD's StegnerImage: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Bockwoldt

Five more litmus-test regional and communal elections are due, including a Berlin city-state poll in two weeks' time, before Germany is scheduled to elect its next federal Bundestag parliament in September 2017.

Added to that will be Germany's high-profile hosting of the next G20 summit in Hamburg in July 2017.

Last Sunday, Merkel's CDU was relegated to third place on 19 percent in her home state. The regional SPD emerged top at 30.6 percent but down five percent on its result in 2011.

The upstart populist right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) came second on 20.8 percent, entering its 9th regional assembly since 2013.

From zero, it took 18 seats in the 71-seat parliament in Schwerin, the capital of the sparsely populated northeastern region, popular for its coastal and rural tourism.

'Overshot her zenith'

The online portal of the news magazine "'Der Spiegel" quoted Stegner as saying: "Frau Merkel has clearly overshot her zenith" or peak.

Sunday's election was a "debacle" for Merkel, Stegner said, referring to criticism within her own ranks, particularly from her allied Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) partner, Premier Horst Seehofer.

Situation 'dangerous,' says Seehofer

Seehofer on Tuesday, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that it had "all been said" when he spoke before cameras on Monday, reiterating his call that Merkel modify her welcoming policy toward refugees.

Deutschland Berlin Generalsekretär der CDU, Peter Tauber nach Landtagswahl
'Cohesion' warns CDU chief executive Peter TauberImage: Getty Images/AFP/O. Andersen

"The situation for the Union [the combined CDU and CSU] is dangerous," Seehofer added Tuesday, claiming that the public did not want her "Berlin policies."

Tauber calls for cohension

Merkel's CDU party organizer, General Secretary Peter Tauber warned Merkel's internal detractors Tuesday: "Our supporters and members - particularly those dedicatedly active in Lower Saxony and Berlin - expect from the Union above all cohesion."

Tauber, who has often advocated Merkel's humanitarian response to last year's intake of some one million asylum seekers, was referring to communal elections due next Sunday in Lower Saxony, which has Hanover as its regional capital.

On Sunday, Tauber had insisted that, while the Schwerin result was "bitter," it would not influence the prospect of Merkel contesting a fourth federal term.

Wolfgang Schäuble und Angela Merkel im Bundestag Berlin
Merkel back in parliament with Wolfgang Schäuble.Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

Challenger not visible

Merkel herself has not declared her hand. Political scientists say a challenger is not visible in CDU/CSU ranks. Largely mute is veteran Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, 74, who has in the past has been named as a CDU alternative.

Three key events are likely to shape trends, including a poll next May in North Rhine-Westphalia - Germany's most populous state - and the election by a special assembly next January of a successor to President Joachim Gauck, Germany's ceremonial head of state.

Merkel, who is due to address CDU Berlin members late Tuesday, after visiting the G20 summit in China, will host next year's showcase G20 in Hamburg - on 7 and 8 July, just two months before Germany's next federal election.

Deutschland Landtagswahl Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Helmut Holter Die Linke
Could Holter's Left join the Sellering's SPD?Image: picture-alliance/dpa/U. Perrey

Coalition variations possible in Schwerin

In Schwerin Tuesday, Merkel's third-placed CDU led by incumbent interior minister Lorenz Caffier and the fourth-placed post-communist Left party, which fell to 13.2 percent, were proferring themselves as potential regional coalition partners to the returned SPD Premier Erwin Sellering.

The assembly's two past terms saw the region governed by SPD-CDU coalitions. From 1998 until 2006, the SPD was in coalition with the Left's Helmut Holter and his-then leftist PDS in the Schwerin assembly.

ipj/rc (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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