Despite the losses his party suffered yesterday, Gerhard Schröder is still trying to hang on to office. Some of his supporters like to think that he is going to be successful, but it is far more likely than not to be nothing more than a bluff.
Either way, his strange performance directly after the elections indicates that the last months were pretty hard on him. During the televised after-election debate of the various parties’ chairpersons, moderated by two senior journalists from the big two public broadcasters, he behaved downright appallingly. Throughout it all he grinned and grimaced, and when he spoke he petulantly insisted that he is Chancellor and will remain Chancellor. He also garrulously and somewhat incoherently attacked the media, accusing them to have conspired against him, in order to get Merkel into the Chancellery. All this is in stark contrast to his suave performances you usually get from the ‘Media-Chancellor’.
One of the two moderators finally ran out of patience and rebuked him (transcribed from my memory, so the exact phrasing could be a bit different from this): ‘Mr Schröder, and I deliberately say Mr Schröder and not Mr Chancellor, you don’t have any business to make allegations against us, just as we don’t make any allegations against yourself.’ After that he simply turned to Angela Merkel, ignoring Schröder altogether. The Chancellor obviously sensed that he had gone too far, he just sat there and silently put up with this chastisement in front of a huge TV audience. The unusual harsh tone, very different from what he used to hearing from German journalists, likely also took him aback.
Even so he dominated the debate when he spared with his political opponents – Angela Merkel was visibly disappointed by her party’s bad performance at the polls, and Edmund Stoiber from Bavaria was a weak candidate in 2002 and seems to have learned little since then. Both were no match against even a weakened Schröder. Their policies and programs are far superior, but they are pikers compared to him when it comes to politicking.
Schröder can still brazen it all out, and build a new coalition government under his leadership against all odds, but no imaginable configuration will be stable for long. The various parties and their personnel simply are incompatible, and in one or two years there would be another reelection. With that in mind, some of the other parties might form some other, unexpected coalition that excludes the Social Democrats altogether. More on that in another post.