A month before the German Bundestag elections, none of the three candidates for the chancellor managed to make convincing progress. Political mercury goes in all directions. For example, it is still not expected who will succeed Angela Merkel in sixteen years and who will determine the course of the Federal Republic in the coming years. Will Germany conservatively choose Christian Democrat Armin Laschet (CDU), the green and progressive of Annalena Baerbock (The Greens), or will it, until recently, be considered the desperate Social Democrat Olaf Scholz (SPD)?
This Tuesday, the Greens were the target of ridicule for the second time in three days. On Sunday, a proposal to support the purchase of a €1,000 freight bike, a culturally charged mode of transport in Germany as in the Netherlands, was received with irony. On Tuesday, the Climate Party launched a film campaign in which the film’s protagonists — including a chaplain, an elderly woman with a tablet, and a group around a barbecue — sing a song about the climate to the tune of the old national anthem. It concerns, among other things, good bus and train connections and Wi-Fi connectivity – ‘WLANWith rhymes, not quite enough Bahn.
Pointing to the old national anthem, brats at the barbecue, singing together: the campaign video expresses the Greens’ desire to be a “people’s party,” a party for all, not elitist or urban, but also for rural citizens not hating national pride. This ambition for the Greens, this ancient climate ambition, begs the question of how to reconcile their ultimately progressive climate agenda with the average meat-loving voter. “We’re fighting the climate crisis, but you won’t have to sacrifice anything for it,” the unconscionable message from the Greens sounds like.
Also read this article about German greens: Robert Habeck is the second trump card for the Greens
It remains to be seen whether the video will harm the Climate Party’s campaign. The truth is that the wave of enthusiasm unleashed by the Greens when party leader Annalena Barbock took office has subsided quickly, after the plagiarism case and a number of fatal errors by Barbock.
At first, Christian Democrat Armin Laschet appeared to be profiting from this. But Laschet lacks toughness and a clear message, so that every misstep clings to him.
Moreover, Laschet was unable to take political advantage of the floods in North Rhine-Westphalia, where he holds the position of Prime Minister. His laughter during his visit to the doomed Erftstadt, during the official speech of Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, apparently outweighed his commitment to the €30 billion construction fund. The wrong choice of footwear (desk shoes instead of rubber boots) and unclear political conclusions (would the Christian Democrats change their climate policy in response to the disaster or not?) caused Laschet’s party to drop in the polls.
However, the smiling third now appears to be the Social Democrat and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD). On Tuesday, the polling agency Forsa released the latest numbers: The SPD is at 23 percent, ahead of the CDU for the first time in 15 years, at 22 percent. The percentage of vegetables is 18 percent.
With the SPD’s warm breath on his neck, Laschet lashed out at the Social Democrats at a campaign rally this weekend. A vote for the Social Democrats, Laschet said, would lead to a left-wing government (with the Greens and the small Socialist party D-Link). He said he would fight “with everything he had” to prevent “ideologues from taking over the country”.
This statement is all the more remarkable because the leader of the SPD, Olaf Schulz, is seen as a technocrat among disguised Social Democrats. Schulz is less ideological than Reilo, as are more Social Democrats who began their political careers in the 1990s and 2000s. Schulz is a compromise candidate among the members of the Social Democratic Party. Schulz, who has been finance minister in Merkel’s fourth government since 2018, gives the impression that he is a decent accountant, rather than a bad image among Germans. In the Corona crisis, Schultz was able to help because he was very frugal before that, as he himself emphasized. This also appears to be the reason why many voters found Schulz a suitable candidate, not because of his party but in spite of it.
But Scholz has a few dents on the rim. As the Minister of Finance, for example, he is responsible for the financial supervisor Bafin, who is responsible for massive fraud In the financial services company Wirecard for years overlooked. As mayor of Hamburg, he had to deal with days of rioting around the G-20 summit in 2017. In this position, Schultz met several times with the director of Warburg Bank, who is involved in major tax evasion, called the former vice president’s scandal.
These shortcomings will be reported on Scholz’s resume widely if he continues to drive in the coming weeks. Since the CDU would not want to be a junior coalition partner, a Schulz victory, or a Barbock win, would mean a place in opposition to the CDU. The last time Germany was chancellor of the SPD was between 1998-2005, sixteen years later CDU member Helmut Kohl. During that period, Angela Merkel saw her opportunity to reform the CDU from the opposition.
Column Luuk van Middelaar page 19
A version of this article also appeared on NRC on the morning of August 25, 2021
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