What will follow after the Merkel era?

Election campaign for the federal election in Germany

by Holger Hagenlocher
– published August 22, 2021 01:35 UTC +12
last edited August 26, 2021 11:21 UTC +12

Will leave the political stage in Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel (photo © Wolfgang van de Rydt, pixabay)

When the new Bundestag is elected in Germany at the end of September, it will also mean the end of an era. After 16 years as German Chancellor, Angela Merkel is no longer running for election. Merkel announced over a year ago that she would leave office.

Many Germans regret Merkel’s withdrawal – across many party lines. Not because Merkel can still be expected to implement great visions or special initiatives for world peace or climate protection, but because Merkel has gained a lot of sympathy in the course of her term in office with regard to her personal integrity and unpretentious behaviour.

Annalena Baerbock from the ecological party ‘Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen’, Armin Laschet from the Merkel ‘CDU’ (Christian Democratic Union) and Olaf Scholz from the ‘SPD’ (Social Democratic Party of Germany) apply as successors. All other parties that apply for election, including the right-wing populist ‘AfD’ (Alternative for Germany), the economically liberal ‘FDP’ (Free Democratic Party) and the party ‘Die Linke’, a socialist-communist mix made up of SPD dropouts and the former (East German) GDR party SED [in German the ‘Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands’, or Socialist Unity Party of Germany -ed ] will not have a chance to appoint the Federal Chancellor.

View of the plenary hall of the German Bundestag (c) Holger Hagenlocher

If current opinion polls are to be believed, over half of the population is not convinced of any of the three potential candidates. The incumbent finance minister of the Merkel government, Olaf Scholz, does the best in the rating. This, despite his diffuse role in the ‘cum-ex’ deals of a major Hamburg bank and his conspicuously passive role in the Wirecard banking scandal. His shortcoming is that his party, the SPD, like many social democratic parties in Europe, has long since fallen out of favor with the electorate and so has little chance of being able to lay claim to the office of ‘Federal Chancellor’ in a coalition.

The ‘Greens’ on the other hand, have been on the rise for years. In the economically strong federal state of Baden-Württemberg they have the largest party in the state legislature, and meanwhile for ten years, and in many other of the 16 federal states, have been involved in the government. The visible effects of climate change also play into the party’s cards. So, the party drew almost level with the long-term ruling party CDU in election polls in the spring. A change seemed possible, as the willingness to change in the population is great after 16 years of Merkel’s government.

The party’s major weakness is the Chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock. The incumbent party leader of the Greens has stumbled from one failure to the next since her nomination. Even if Baerbock’s scandals in the political business are more likely to be classified as little scandals, she has gambled away a lot of the leap of faith placed in her by the population by embellishing her résumé and exaggerating her achievements. The over-ambitious vanity and her rather arrogant demeanor have resulted in her sympathy ratings being the worst of the three candidates today. In addition, Baerbock has to fight on many different fronts. Massive disinformation campaigns of Russia are already influencing the election campaign. Russia fears the deterioration of economic relations and a diplomatically problematic relationship with Germany and the EU if Baerbock were to head the government. Since the Greens are not only the party for environmental protection, but are also vehemently committed to human rights [which Russia is often criticised for as lacking – ed], this assessment is quite realistic.

Parts of the economy as well as almost all right-wing efforts, ranging from the Springer press (BILD and WELT) to right-wing populist and right-wing radical currents, never tire of directing constant fire at the candidate. [die Welt and Bild are major German newspapers published by Berlin-based Axel Springer SE, a large German media publishing company – ed]

Armin Laschet, the candidate of the ruling CDU party, received similarly poor poll ratings as Baerbock. Laschet stands for 20th century politics, from which nobody seriously expects decisive action in crisis situations. The political leader, or ‘minister-president’, of North Rhine-Westphalia showed himself to be an indecisive crisis manager during the flood disaster, cut a bad figure in appearances in the crisis areas, belittled climate change and in recent years has repeatedly been confronted with allegations of corruption in his political environment – from which he has so far emerged unscathed.

Laschet’s reputation and support in the population is low; the aversion is great. Nevertheless, Laschet has the greatest chance of becoming Germany’s next chancellor because he is a candidate for the CDU, which can still unite the most votes.

When evaluating the current candidates, it should not be forgotten that Angela Merkel, too, was once belittled – for instance, as America’s lap-dog – at the beginning of her term in office. However, whether in the financial crisis of 2009 or the reactor disaster in Fukushima, she proved to be an excellent crisis manager. She gained, also, international reputation through her actions in the refugee crisis and her steadfastness against the egomaniac Trump or the autocrat Putin.

The intense election campaign in Germany will only begin around a month before the election on September 26th. The decisive time will be from August 29th to September 12th, because due to the Corona situation, many voters will vote by letter and experience has shown that these election letters are sent in the two weeks before the election.

The Reichstag building on the Platz der Republik in the German
capital Berlin has been the seat of the German Bundestag since 1999.
© Holger Hagenlocher

From a current perspective 1 (considering the above arguments and current projections) one could possibly argue that the question of who will be the next German Chancellor has perhaps already been answered. However, the question of which government coalition this person can rule in, remains uncertain and therefore interesting.

According to current polls, these variants are mathematically possible:
1) CDU with the Greens,
2) CDU with the SPD,
3) CDU with SPD and FDP
4) The Greens with SPD + FDP.

The latter combination seems very unlikely, since the leadership of the economically liberal FDP does not want to support a government of the Greens – and the SPD would only accept such a constellation if it delivers the chancellor itself.

These forecasts could only falter due to unforeseen events such as natural disasters, the exposure of corruption scandals or other circumstances that cannot be factored in from today’s perspective.2

On the morning of September 27th it will be clear who won the most votes. The decision as to which party coalition Germany will lead in the next four years will be decided in the coalition negotiations following the election. These can drag on, in the worst case, for weeks.

by Holger Hagenlocher

1, 2 note – This article includes references to various statistics as at early-mid august, 2021

Holger Hagenlocher works as a freelance journalist and blogger in Germany for daily newspapers, magazines and corporate publications (https://www.redaktionsbuero-hagenlocher.de). In addition, the graduate economist advises companies, institutions and associations in the areas of communication and public relations (https://www.holger-hagenlocher.de)


Note -The views and opinions expressed in this article, or any contributed articles to journalistfrei.com, do not necessarily represent the views of the publisher.

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