Political Overview: First reactions to Turkey, UK — SPD ahead in North-Rhine Westphalia, CDU on federal level

The result of the referendum in Turkey has Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel worried greatly.

After an official victory for the constitutional referendum in Turkey, first reactions of Germany’s political elite came quickly. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) stated “the Federal Government expects that the Turkish government enters a respectful dialogue with all political and societal forces in its country.” Opposition and Bundestag members were harsher: FDP vice-chairman Wolfgang Kubicki argued the referendum “meant the end of accession negotiations, an end to pre-accession assistance of billions of Euro”. Wolfgang Bosbach, speaker for interior policy of the CDU Bundestag group agreed. Green lead candidate Cem Özdemir disagreed to cancel financial support for civil rights actors in Turkey but added: “Keep the accession negotiations frozen”.

Reacting to the British snap election Mr Gabriel stated: “Predictability and reliability are more important than ever since the Brexit vote in the UK. Any prolonged uncertainty is surely not to the benefit of political and economic relations between Europe and the UK. I hope that the early general election announced by Prime Minister May today will lend the negotiations with the European Union greater clarity and predictability.” On the french election, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned the French electorate of voting for Marine le Pen, who he claims is out to destroy the EU. The Union, Mr Steinmeier called a “gain for all of us, including France”.

Although only two were lightly injured, last week’s bombing in Dortmund in North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW), which targeted the bus of a popular soccer team, caused public uproar. After Islamist and left-wing extremist letters of confession were exposed as hoaxes, the newest trace leads to the Neo-nazi scene. Already prior to the attack, Ms Merkel had called for stronger intelligence and policing on state level. The case adds to recent failures by NRW’s security services, imperilling the SPD’s campaign for state election on 14 May. Nevertheless, SPD chairman Martin Schulz’s popularity seems to outweigh policy failure, with his party polling 37% (CDU 30%, Greens 6 %, FDP 9 %, Left 5 %, AfD 9 %) in Germany’s largest state.

In federal polls, Ms Merkel received a 62% approval rate (+2) while Mr Schulz dropped to 48% (-4). Voters are split in their judgement on the Government as a whole, with a slim majority of 52% approving its work. Especially positive are CDU voters (73%), and, surprisingly, the followers of the Green opposition party (60%). SPD and FDP, as well as undecided voters, are roughly split. Followers of the Left (62%) and especially the far right AfD (98%) mostly reject the government.

The nearing party convention of the AfD has caused uproar: Party chairwomen Frauke Petry announced she will not run for leading the party into the election. Observers judge her move less as a retreat but as a tactical manoeuvre. Ms Petry is blamed to have created the conflict between “conservatives” and extremists for her own gain. Many expect her to continue this fight by pushing for a “conservative” programme this weekend.

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