BERLIN — After extra than a decade and a half of Angela Merkel’s leadership, Germans may quiet have an appetite for her workaday political fashion. At least that’s what Olaf Scholz, from a longtime rival party, is hoping.
And the polls have swung in his favor heading toward Sept. 26 elections.
“He is rational, stable, almost boring,” said Nils Diederich, a German political scientist and venerable SPD parliament member. “This makes him very similar to Mrs. Merkel.”
And that’s all the extra important in a campaign that has centered on personality rather than coverage, he added.
The race to succeed Merkel has been unusually tight. It’s miles the first time in Germany’s postwar history that an incumbent is not running for reelection, aside from the very first vote.
No single party is predicted to win anywhere near an outright majority, meaning potentially prolonged and sophisticated negotiations ahead to craft a coalition. After the 2017 elections, it’s how 63-year-ragged Scholz ended up in the govt in a reluctant alliance with Merkel’s heart-lawful party.
Lawful now, Scholz has the pole place over the other candidates: Armin Laschet, 60, a political veteran picked as Merkel’s successor to lead the Christian Democratic Union, and a 40-year-ragged rising star for the Greens, Annalena Baerbock.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for Scholz and his party, which was languishing in a distant third place in opinion polls earlier this year.
Analysts attach Scholz’s success down partially to luck, or extra specifically, the failures and missteps of his rivals, including a particularly disastrous campaign for Laschet, including an uneven response to devastating floods in July in his home state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
That has given room for Scholz to frame himself extra as Merkel’s successor, said Thorsten Faas, a professor at the Free University of Berlin who specializes in electoral campaigns.
“Scholz is clearly trying to create an image of being the natural, however Social Democratic, successor of Angela Merkel,” he said.
“He can be chancellor,” read some of Scholz’s campaign posters, using the feminine fabricate of chancellor in German — kanzlerin — sending the message that he’s channeling his inner Merkel.
The attempt to cast himself in Merkel’s shadow has introduced some derision from her bloc.
Scholz is “legacy hunting,” according to Markus Söder, the leader of the Christian Social Union, sister party of Merkel’s CDU.
“Making the diamond is not satisfactory,” he told the Bild newspaper in a fresh interview, referring to Scholz’s appearance on the entrance veil of Süddeutsche Magazine last month displaying Merkel’s signature hand gesture — her thumbs and index fingers pressed together in the shape of a diamond.
With handiest eight chancellors since 1949, the German electorate isn’t known for embracing too worthy in the way of change.
Britain has had 15 prime ministers over the same length; Italy, 41. Without a restrict on terms, Konrad Adenauer, the first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, led the country for 14 years. Merkel’s mentor, Helmut Kohl, who oversaw Germany’s reunification, served for 16 years.
Britain’s longest-serving postwar leader, Tony Blair, was in place of business for a relatively mere 10 years.
“After 15 years, German voters have learned from Merkel what a chancellor is,” said Diederich, the political researcher. “Maybe [Scholz is] the particular person that best fits the image for chancellor for many voters.”
At a Berlin beer garden on the River Spree, Scholz lower a confident figure earlier this month as he mentioned such diverse topics as pensions, put up-pandemic economics, rents, education and Afghanistan.
Scholz was able to raise his national profile as Merkel’s deputy and finance minister, overseeing billions in pandemic reduction and aid to victims of the summer season’s deadly flooding in western Germany.
He defended a temporary suspension of Germany’s constitutional “debt brake,” which has allowed the country to borrow extra cash for emergency spending.
He has so far emerged relatively unscathed from a number of scandals. Apt this month, German prosecutors raided the offices of his Finance Ministry as they investigate whether certainly one of its devices passed over warnings over suspected cash laundering.
He has been called to answer questions in the parliament, or Bundestag, before the election. He has said that prosecutors may have attach questions to the ministry in writing, hinting at a political motive for the raid.
The collapse of fintech company Wirecard, Germany’s largest postwar fraud scandal, also happened on his watch. Scholz has also battled accusations that he intervened on behalf of a bank at the heart of the Europe-broad tax fraud scandal.
It’s been a volatile race so far.
Earlier this year, polls confirmed the Greens as having a chance at winning. However their candidate Baerbock became embroiled with questions over the embellishment of her résumé, late-declared earnings and accusations of plagiarism.
Meanwhile, Merkel’s CDU picked Laschet as its party leader and later its candidate despite, in both instances, his being the most unpopular choice with the public at large.
The premier of Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westfalia, Laschet faced criticism for his handling of the pandemic, including from Merkel herself as he pushed back against closures.
If unique polls are anything to inch by, he may be leading the Christian Democrats to certainly one of their worst results in history.
“What is fairly clear is Laschet is really bringing down the party,” said Peter Matuschek, political analyst at the polling institute Forsa. “Laschet, in theory, may have enjoyed his place as incumbent, however he didn’t capture this alternative. It’s relatively the reverse.”
Devastating flooding in his state early this summer season gave Laschet a mighty setting to showcase his leadership. However he was caught on camera laughing during a memorial to the victims.
Scholz appears to be the “last man standing,” Matuschek said.
The SPD is Germany’s oldest party, tracing its Marxist roots back to the 1860s. Appreciate other heart-left parties in Europe, it has viewed its fortunes fade.
Scholz has also called for raising the minimum wage to 12 euros (about $14.10), from 9.50 euros (about $11.20), and raising taxes on excessive earners. The party platform also wants extra reinforce, such tax breaks, for low- and heart-wage earners, as smartly as the unemployed, parents and caregivers.
However it is miles an election where other folks care extra about personalities than politics, said Matuschek.
“I’d say many of the proposals in the election manifesto of the Social Democrats are not really popular, however no person is reading party manifestos,” he said.
Merkel, who was extra modern than the extra traditional lawful-wing parts of her party, was able to attract a wider range of voters. However now the Christian Democrats are even losing voters to the Social Democrats, Matuschek said.
Paul Bahlmann, a 31-year-ragged candidate for a Berlin councilor seat with the SPD, is enjoying the scoot. He tests the polls regularly.
“It’s too factual to be steady lawful now,” he said.