In Campaign Debut, Schulz Leans Left

Martin Schulz
Martin Schulz

Martin Schulz wants to undo labor market reforms credited with fixing the German economy in a bid to make peace with the trade unions.

Appearing at one of his first campaign rallies since getting the Social Democratic nod for chancellor, Schulz promised to fix the broken relationship with the labor movement and the leftwing of the SPD. 

“It remains true that we can make this country better only together with the unions,” Schulz told supporters in the northwestern town of Bielefeld on Monday, Politico reported.

His proposal to scrap some of the labor market reforms introduced over a decade ago under the last center-left chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, offers a first taste of what the former president of the European Parliament—who only moved into national politics this year after a couple decades in Brussels—will run on this autumn. His decision to tack left toward the SPD’s old industrial working class base is bold and risky.

The incumbent, Chancellor Angela Merkel, told a closed door meeting of her party earlier this month that the ruling Christian Democrats had to propose a “better program” than Schulz, without offering many details. She is expected to build her fourth election campaign around the need to preserve Germany’s economic strength. 

Schulz’s intervention on Monday offers a potentially sharp contrast to voters, at least on economic policy, in the coming campaign.

With Schulz fronting their ticket, the SPD has seen a remarkable reversal in fortunes. Three weeks after his nomination as candidate for chancellor in this fall’s election, the SPD has surged in popularity and some polls even put it ahead of Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

The success may have come as a surprise to many, Schulz included, but he’s hoping to keep the momentum going. That means winning over voters who turned their backs on the party because they believed it had moved away from its working-class roots.

“We have made mistakes. There’s nothing wrong with correcting mistakes,” he said in Bielefeld.


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