In late January, Der Spiegel called him a saint. “St. Martin” was smiling on the cover of the weekly, surrounded by colorful cosmic rays. And indeed, Martin Schulz, the former European Parliament president who returned to Germany to seek the chancellorship, seems capable of miracles.
For the first time in the last 10 years, polls released Sunday showed the Social Democrats leading by a point above Angela Merkel’s CDU (33 to 32 percent). In the meantime, Sankt Martin, the pilgrim from Brussels, can boast an approval rating 11 points higher than the chancellor, who until recently did not seem to have any rivals (49 to 38). In a few weeks, the SPD gained 3,000 new members, and all Schulz’ public appearances are sold out. It seems the party has suddenly awakened from the slumber it was in for many years.
On Monday, the new leader captured the headlines of the entire German press with his statement that he wants to correct the 2010 Agenda, the celebrated reform of the labor market and social security with which the Red-Green coalition, led by Gerhard Schroeder in 2003, had assured German competitiveness at the expense of wages and social benefits. The SPD had paid dearly for the coup launched against its traditional electoral base with the loss of the majority and a long subordination under the CDU/CSU that seemed inescapable. The latter, which did not have to execute cuts and restrictions, reaped the benefits of the reform to companies without having to take the blame for its social costs.