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With Eye to 2017 Election, German SPD Chief Tacks to Right

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Sigmar Gabriel, the head of Germany's Social Democratic Party.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    As the head of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, Sigmar Gabriel will almost certainly be his party’s candidate for chancellor in 2017.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Ms. Merkel is at the peak of her power largely because the center-right Christian Democratic Union has moved to address social concerns, poaching voters from other parties.
    • Sigmar Gabriel understands that in prosperous times the best strategy for gaining power is appealing to hard-working employees and entrepreneurs.
    • While this may be a threat to the Grand Coalition created by the two parties, Mr. Gabriel’s efforts could be beneficial to Germany.
  • Audio

    Audio

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With the federal election campaign for the Bundestag already underway, the Social Democratic Party chairman and vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, is plotting a course to become Chancellor in 2017.

The leader of the left-leaning party in Angela Merkel’s right-left broad coalition is taking a page from Mrs. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union by reaching out to the opposition. Just as Ms. Merkel has nudged her own CDU party, bit by bit, toward the left in order to take votes from the SPD, Mr. Gabriel wants to position his party as more liberal yet more business-friendly.

His efforts underscore a rejection of dogmatic and ideological politics, which have not been effective in dealing with the reality of rapid changes in the economy and society at large.

In fact, the leader of the SPD has little alternative if he wants any kind of chance at all in the next federal elections against Ms. Merkel, who is at the zenith of her power and influence. She has shown how to win elections at a time when the number of core voters are shrinking by gradually opening her party to a more moderate, social political agenda.

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