Olaf Scholz walks like the next Angela Merkel in Germany, and it seems to work

BERLIN — When Olaf Scholz asked his fellow Social Democrats to nominate him as their candidate for chancellor, some in his own camp wondered publicly of the… party should to disturb fielding a candidate at all.

The oldest in Germany party was not just behind Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, but had fallen to third place place behind the Greens with a humiliating 14 percent in the polls. Yet in June has the German media was setting up the competition to succeed Mrs Merkel as a two-way race between its conservatives and the emerging Green Party.

But with the 26 september national elections fast approaching, Mr Scholz and his once dying party have unexpected become ‘s favorites lead the next government in Europe’s largest democracy.

“It’s really moving to see how a lot of burgers trust me the next chancellor,” a beaming Mr Scholz told hundreds of supporters on a recent campaign event in Berlin, as it stood in front of a giant screen proclaim, “Scholz will handle it.”

Ten months after Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the US presidency for the Democrats, there is a real chance that Germany will be led by a centralleft chancellor for the first time in 16 years. Not since the second term of former President Bill Clinton has had both the White House and the German Chancellery in the hands of Centre-left leaders.

“The atmosphere is just great now – we’re almost in disbelief,” said Annika Klose, who is a social democratic candidate for Parliament and saw Mr Scholz speak. “Since I joined the party in 2011, every election result was worse than the last.”

It’s not that Germans have suddenly shifted left. Mr Scholz, who has served as Mrs Merkel’s finances minister and vice chancellor for the past four years, is in many ways more associated with the conservative-LED coalition government than his own party. Two years ago, he lost the party leadership match to a left-wing duo, who attacked him for are moderate centrism.

But Mr Scholz has managed to turn what has long been the… main liability for to be party — co-management as junior partners of Mrs Merkel’s Conservatives – in his main asset: At an election with no seated, he has styled himself as the seated – of as closest to Mrs Merkel.

“Germans are not very change-friendly people and the departure” of Angela Merkel is actually enough change for them,” says Christiane Hoffmann, a prominent politician observer and reporter. “They are most likely to trust the candidate who promises that the transition is as easy as possible.”

With 25 percent in recent polls have found Mr. Scholz overtook the Greens, now behind at 17 percent, and the conservatives at barely over 20 percent. But political analysts point out that this would hardly be a convincing victory.

“New one has become chancellor ever since 1949 with so little confidence,” said Manfred Güllner, head of the Forsa polling station, referring to the establishment year of the Federal Republic of Germany after World War II.

“German voters are quite restless,” said Mr Güllner added. “After 16 years of a Merkel chancellorship that gave a sense of security of stability, we are in An place we have never been before.”

On the campaign track mr. Scholz spoke with admiration of the current chancellor. AN tightly produced TV commercial By the party shows he is walking in front of a projected image of Mrs Merkel.

He has been photographed making the chancellor’s signature diamond-shaped hand gesture – the “Merkel diamond” — and used the feminine form of the German word for chancellor on An campaign poster to convince Germans he could continue met Mrs Merkel’s work even though he is a man.

The symbolism isn’t subtle, but it works — so well in fact that the chancellor has felt compelled to push back on the — most recently in what could she be? last speech in the Bundestag.

Mr Güllner, the pollster, said in at least partially: of the recent rise in support for the social democrats come from the Merkel voters who are not happy with her party’s candidate, Armin Laschet, a conservative governor of the state who has rumbled repeatedly on the campaign path.

“There is no real Scholz enthusiasm in Germany,” said Ms Hoffmann. “To be success is mainly due to the weakness of the other candidates.”

Unlike his rivals, Mr. Scholz didn’t set foot wrong in the campaign. He takes few risks and is so controlled that Germans call him “Scholz-o-mat” – of “Scholz machine.”

Stick to his message of has stability also made it more difficult for to be opponents until attack it on past blunders, though some have tried. as mayor of Hamburg huh took private meetings with a banker die looking for a million euro tax deferral, an episode die has become part of a state investigation, and it was on his watch as finance minister that the fraudulent German fintech company Wirecard imploded.

But this barely surfaced in the campaign. Instead, the popularity of Mr. Scholz continue to rise rise.

Mr Scholz was a socialist in The 70’s who gradually softens to a postideological center. First defending workers as labor lawyers, then painful labor lawmarket reforms and now co-government with An conservative chancellor, his journey in many ways trace that of to be party.

In his 158-year history the social democrats have been a formidable political party force, fighting for workers’ rights, fight against fascism and help to shape German post-war welfare state. But after serving three terms as junior partners of Mrs Merkel, the party’s vote share had been halved.

Gerhard Schroeder, de last Social Democrat becomes chancellor, won 39 percent of the vote in 2002. In 2005, when the Social Democrats came in first coalition with Mrs Merkel, they still won 34 percent of votes; in 2017 that had shrunk to 20 percent.

But even if his party sank to a post-war low, Mr. Scholz became one of Germany’s most popular politicians.

It helped that as finances minister he checked the governmentpurse strings during the pandemic. After years of religiously clinging to Germany’s cherished equilibrium budget rule, he promised to bring out the “bazooka” to help companies survive the pandemic and initially spend 353 billion euros, of about $417 billion, in recovery and relief funds.

“Scholz has” zero charisma, but he exudes stability – and he handed over out the money in the economic crisis,” says Andrea Römmele, Dean of the in Berlin-based Hertie School of Management.

If current polls, the Social Democrats will finish first but want need two other parties to form a government coalition. One would almost certainly be the Greens. if for the other, mr. Scholz has anything but ruled out the distantleft Left Party, die either leave the conservatives of – more probably – the free-market Free Democrats.

Mr Scholz has put forward some ideas on how he would rule otherwise, but the changes are relatively modest and can be watered further down by him coalition partners, analysts predict.

He has tried to be party’s core working class voters by using “Respect” as one of to be main campaign slogans. In his stump speech, he emphasizes: Which people who earn net as much as him should receive no tax benefit. Instead, he wants to lower taxes for middle and low incomes and raise them modestly for die with income of more than 100,000 euros a year.

He promises to raise the minimum wage to 12 euros per hour (instead of the current 9.60 euros), build 400,000 homes An year (instead of the approximately 300,000 built in 2020) and pass a raft of climate measures, but without out of coal for 2038.

“We would not expect changes in taxes and expenses to add up to a big additional tax incentives,” wrote Holger Schmieding, chief economist for Berenberg Bank in a recent analysis of what would a Scholz chancellorship mean? for financial markets. In a coalition with the Greens and the Free Democrats, he predicted, “the pragmatic Scholz himself would probably in the leftist tendencies” of its own party base.

Only the conservatives, desperate under pressure, have argued the opposite.

Even Mrs Merkel, who had said that she wanted to stay out of the race, has recently felt compelled until distance herself of the unabashed efforts of Mr. Scholz om run as her clone.

There is “a huge difference” for the future of Germany between him and me,” said Ms Merkel.

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