Martin Schulz, who still rides on a wave of enormous popularity, was formally elected party leader and chancellor candidate by all the party’s 605 delegates at the SPD party conference who casted a valid ballot. While some argue that the recent hype surrounding Mr Schulz might be unfounded, his 100% win is unprecedented. In his acceptance speech, Mr Schulz remained carefully unspecific, promising a more solidary education and childcare system as well as more labour rights and social benefits. Especially on taxes, Mr Schulz refused to give details: He rejects tax cuts, but declines to clarify whether he will support higher taxes for individuals or corporations, pointing to the internal programme drafting process.The issue will also be decisive in determining the SPD’s options to form a coalition with Greens and The Left. The CDU reacted to Mr Schulz’ strong mandate by lambasting the SPD’s programmatic weakness, albeit without yet outlining their own programme. Ms Merkel herself so far refrained from any statements on Mr Schulz, leaving commenting to her party’s General Secretary, Peter Tauber. Campaigners in Saarland are increasingly nervous concerning this strategy: their voters go to the ballot this Sunday, with SPD and CDU on a par.
Shortly after visiting US President Donald Trump in Washington DC, Angela Merkel stressed the importance of free trade when holding the opening speech of the Cebit, with Japan as this year’s partner country. Just before, Ms Merkel had welcomed the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron in Berlin. While rumours say that Ms Merkel favours Mr Macron, the confidential conversation, which lasted about an hour, should not be read as an election recommendation: Ms Merkel already met Francois Fillon and only declines to host Marine Le Pen. While there was no common press conference following the meeting, Mr Macron held one on his own, and later debated Europe’s future with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Philosopher Juergen Habermas. Mr Gabriel, who earned some criticism for sharing a stage with Mr Macron, will meet his comrade Benoît Hamon next week.
Meanwhile, the row over Turkish referendum campaigning in Germany slowed down a bit. After another round of personal attacks from Turkish President Recep Erdogan, an AKP spokesperson announced that all events in Germany had been cancelled by his party. Shortly before, Ms Merkel had threatened to ban rallies if Mr Erdogan continued to compare the Federal Republic with Nazi-Germany. Some continue to worry: Exactly at the anniversary of the EU-Turkey refugee deal, some German media outlets worried about a recent uptick in refugee-arrivals in Greece. On Wednesday, in some cryptic comment, Mr Erdogan then stated “if they continue to act like that, no European, no citizen of the West will be able to step to the street in safety and peace.” While German media widely reported and the EU’s High Representative Federica Mogherini summoned the Turkish ambassador, the German government did not react.