The run-up to the upcoming German election has begun with the second-biggest party announcing who will fight against Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Socialist Party, currently junior coalition partner of Merkel's CDU, has chosen Martin Schulz to challenge Merkel's leadership. The former President of the European Parliament is seen by analysts as a "real alternative" to Merkel, who has dominated German politics for the last 12 years.
"With Martin Schulz, the party now tries to present a real alternative to Angela Merkel. His personal background, being a former alcoholic, speaking six languages and having no high school diploma, already distinguishes him from many other national politicians," Carsten Brzeski, chief Economist ING said in a note.
"Even more important, in the German public opinion, Schulz has become the embodiment of Europe," he added, saying that this should force Merkel to be clearer about her vision for Europe.
One of the most critical European issues for the German election is the refugee policy. Merkel has adopted an "open-arms" approach, which has backfired. The increasingly unpopular policy has impacted Merkel's poll rating and boosted support for the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD).
"Opposition from the far-right alternative for Germany will force the chancellor to put up a fight; Schulz's nomination means that on top of this, she will face a center-left contender with the capacity for emotional messaging and no history in domestic German politics – the advantage of a fresh face in times of anti-establishment politics," Carsten Nickel, deputy director of research at Teneo Intelligence said in a note.