Ripple Effects in Germany
The election in France could even alter the political landscape ahead of Germany’s upcoming federal election in 2013. The center-left Social Democrats (SPD), who are trailing the chancellor in recent polls, desperately need a boost. If Hollande were to win, it would send a signal that social democracy in Europe, and in Germany, is still a force to be reckoned with. That’s how party members see it, at least.
But Merkel’s center-right coalition, made up of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), hopes that Sarkozy will win in the end. “If that were not to be the case, then the government would have a large problem because, without him, the most important partner for the euro’s stability would be lost,” says Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, chairman of the FDP in the European Parliament. He says Hollande stands for an “out-dated type of social democratic policies — more government spending, more public positions and possibly more debt.”
Merkel agrees. That’s why she has so strongly backed Sarkozy. What was once a cool relationship between two different types of politicians has grown into a true partnership. During the euro crisis, above all, the two leaders have proved their reliability to each other. Without Merkel and Sarkozy, it is clear that there would not have been a rescue package.
A Predictable Partner
Despite their differences, Sarkozy has been predictable for Merkel. Although, if Sarkozy were to be reelected, he would likely savor his victory, having achieved something she still has in front of her. Chancellery insiders suspect that Sarkozy would act differently after his reelection, possibly shifting the balance of power in his favor. Whether the Frenchman would then still be inclined to consider German sensitivities is questionable. In Berlin, there has recently been concern over Sarkozy’s campaign promises to use the European Central Bank (ECB) more for economic growth policies, which is considered a dangerous venture by Merkel’s government.
But a win by Hollande would be even trickier for Merkel. His statements suggest that he would immediately do away with the austerity measures that Merkel has pushed through in Europe. He has called for more stimulus measures for crisis countries, instead. The EU fiscal pact is the “worst enemy” of the European people, he says. If the treaty is not expanded, he would recommend to the French National Assembly that it not be ratified, he told the German business daily Handelsblatt.
Can Merkel and Hollande work together? The chancellor has given the Socialist candidate the cold shoulder for a long time but, in the meantime, her aides have carefully put out feelers. Hollande has responded by saying that, if elected, his first trip would be to Germany. The EU needs a German-French partnership during its deep crisis, he says.