Sunday, January 29

Sunday, January 29

France’s socialists nominate their presidential candidate and a surprise in German politics.

FRANCE’S SOCIALISTS NOMINATE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

macron

Photo: EPA

On Sunday, France’s former PM Manuel Valls goes head to head with former Education Minister Benoit Hamon in the Socialist Party’s final primary vote. Hamon scooped 36% of support in last week’s first round, finishing comfortably ahead of Valls and former Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg, who was eliminated.

Both Montebourg and Hamon were dismissed by Valls in 2014 for criticising his pro-business policies. Since being knocked out of contention, Mr Montebourg has urged his followers to support Hamon, likely giving the leftist an edge over his rival on Sunday.

However, the socialists are deeply unpopular and unlikely to mount a strong challenge for the presidency. Rather, independent Emmanual Macron appears to be emerging as a force. Although Macron also served under President Hollande, he’s successfully distanced himself from the historically unpopular administration and pledged to rule as a centrist.

Meanwhile, centre-right candidate Francois Fillon finds himself mired in controversy over allegedly employing his wife in a $530,000 ghost job. Mr Fillon says he’ll step down if a criminal probe is launched, potentially blowing the field wide open in the most important election of 2017.

SCHULZ TO LEAD CENTRE-LEFT CHARGE AGAINST MERKEL

Photo: European Parliament

Photo: European Parliament

Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) was expected to announce its candidate for September’s federal election on Sunday – and by all accounts leader Sigmar Gabriel seemed to have the nomination sewn up. Instead, the centre-left party surprised onlookers, announcing former European Parliament President Martin Schulz will take the reigns; Gabriel is expected to settle for foreign minister.

The rationale behind the decision is straightforward enough – Mr Schulz is more popular than his predecessor – but his path to the top job is anything but. Angela Merkel has shown remarkable resilience over the past 11 years and polls show her centre-right Christian Democrats still lead the pack. If they’re accurate, Ms Merkel is likely to be reinstated for a fourth term.

To unseat her, Mr Schulz will present himself as a bulwark against populists and attack the chancellor on her austerity policies, which he’ll argue are partially to blame for the continent’s populist resurgence.

But Schulz is a relative newcomer to domestic politics and has chosen to devote most of his career to European matters. This is likely to hurt his already slim chances of swiping the leadership.