Germany’s struggling Social Democrat (SPD) leader Martin Schulz has come under fire for dismissing chancellor Angela Merkel’s “arrogant” leadership style as an “attack on democracy”.

Schulz used the term – more usually used in Germany in reference to presidents Trump or Erdogan – while presenting his party’s programme for the September 24th federal election, promising voters “more fairness”.

“The SPD knows that people don’t want the state in their face, but at their side when needed,” he said. “The SPD stands for a politics that secures solidarity in times of change, for secure pensions, better education and fairer wages.”

By Monday morning Schulz had set German airwaves a-buzz: but not, as he had hoped, with talk of the SPD’s political offensive on the three-term chancellor.

Instead the talk was of an SPD leader on the defensive. In January Schulz’s arrival as Merkel challenger prompted a remarkable spike in party support but, five months on, that euphoria is a distant memory.

And three months to polling day, after a series of state election disasters, the SPD is once again 15 points behind Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Political style

Schulz directed his attack at Merkel’s political style, which he said favoured short-term tactics over long-term strategy, and her party’s embrace of “asymmetric demobilisation”. This, he said, involved content-free campaigns personalised around the popular German leader that demotivated other parties’ supporters from even turning out to vote.

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