The prime minister of Germany, Angela Merkel, came down from the wall and marked a stronger position this Tuesday (31) in the election campaign for her succession, after polls show that her party, the Union (CDU/CSU), continues to fall.
The German parliamentary election takes place on September 26 and will mark the end of the 16-year rule of Merkel, who last year announced her intention to retire.
“With me at the head of the government there would never be a coalition in which The Left [partido socialista herdeiro do antigo governo da Alemanha oriental] was involved,” the center-right politician said, answering a question about Olaf Scholz, candidate of the Social Democrats (SPD). Scholz has reinforced in his campaign the message that he has the closest profile to Merkel.
Scholz’s party, the SPD, has been on the rise in voting intentions since the July floods, when it hovered around 15%, and numerically surpassed the Union in voting intention polls this weekend, reaching 24%.
The two acronyms are united in the coalition that supports Merkel’s government, although there are differences in their political orientations: the Union is Christian Democrat, conservative and liberal, and occupies the center-right of the political spectrum. The SPD, social democrat, is on the center-left.
The legends, which intersect at the center, have already been in opposition to each other in previous governments and are also rivals in this election. The Union’s candidate for prime minister is North Rhine-Westphalia Governor Armin Laschet, who has dropped from 29% to 22% in polls.
Establishing himself as Merkel’s “heir” could win over the less-right part of the conservative electorate to his party, reckons Scholz, deputy prime minister and finance minister in Merkel’s government.
Although German voters do not directly choose the prime minister, but rather the deputies who will elect him in the Bundestag (Lower House), analysts say they believe Scholz’s popularity — more than twice that of Laschet — is one of the causes of this upheaval.
Scholz is also seen as more secure and stable than Laschet and quickly put together a financial aid package for flood victims, while the Union candidate reacted late to the disaster in his state and was caught laughing during a tribute to the victims.
He would also benefit from the current government’s good assessment: 70% of Germans consider the federal administration to be good, according to August data from Forschungsgruppe Wahlen. In this identification strategy, he even posed for a magazine, imitating the gesture of hands in diamonds that is a symbol of his boss.
The candidate, however, cannot explicitly rule out an alliance with The Left — a socialist acronym that is on the left of the SPD and is even considered radical in Germany — because it would conflict with the leadership of his party.
Scholz is in the center wing of the Social Democrats, but its acronym is led by the less centrist group. This intra-party embarrassment opened a flank for attacks by the Union candidate, Armin Laschet, during last Sunday’s TV debate and, on Tuesday, for Merkel’s criticism.
According to the Prime Minister, the fact that Scholz does not refuse an alliance with The Left means “that there is a big difference between the two of us regarding the future of Germany”.
“I want to say clearly that for the future, and especially in these times, very clear statements are needed about the continuation of government work,” said Merkel.
One of the main reservations regarding the Left is that the party defends Germany’s withdrawal from NATO, a military alliance of European and North American countries. Due to this position, the Greens, who appear in third place in the polls, have already declared that they will not accept a coalition with the legend.
In the interview, Merkel was also pleased that Scholz wanted to show himself as a representative of continuity, which would be an endorsement of his government. “In the past, the SPD did not always speak positively about my management,” she said. This will be the first time since 1949 that an active prime minister has not been running, making this year’s election more unpredictable.
MEET THE CANDIDATES
Party: Social Democrats (SPD)
Current position: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance
Career: Lawyer, former mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018 and has been a member of the Merkel government since then
It is the most experienced at the national level
Quickly put together a financial rescue package for flood victims
Her profile is seen as close to Merkel’s, which may attract the prime minister’s supporters.
High loyalty among his party supporters: 80% would mark the minister’s name on the ballot if they could, according to poll
Party: Christian Democratic Union (CDU)
Current position: Governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, largest German state
Career: Graduated in law, worked as a journalist until the early years of his political career; he was German and European deputy and secretary for Generations, Family, Women and Integration and Federal Affairs, Europe and Media in North Rhine-Westphalia, the state he now governs
Has administrative experience
He leads the party of popular Prime Minister Angela Merkel and is the closest candidate to conservative voters
Won a difficult internal election to become the Union candidate
He faces resistance among his supporters: only 38% of CDU supporters say they would choose him if the prime minister were directly elected, according to a poll.
Your image was scratched after the July floods
Government program criticized for being vague
Current position: party co-chair
Career: Graduated in political science and public law, she started her political life as an advisor to the European Parliament in 2005; Member since 2013 and co-chairman of the German Green Party since 2018)
is the only woman in the dispute
It is seen as dynamic and determined
Represents a change after decades of Union and SPD governments
Government platform is seen as more concrete
Beat the record for support in election for party co-chairman, with 97.1% of votes
no management experience
She was accused of plagiarism and of having inflated her résumé, which led to rejection of her name. Among Greens supporters, 57% say they would vote for her as prime minister, according to a poll.
Opponents Say Greens’ Environmental Policy Will Raise Cost of Living