Angela Merkel’s top three potential successors clashed in the final round of three live televised debates on Sunday night. Olaf Scholz from the Social Democrats, Armin Laschet from the Conservatives and Annalena Baerbock from the Greens clashed over a series of issues. And once again, Mr Scholz emerged victorious in what now appears to be a certain path to victory in the German elections on September 26.
Notably, however, there was no mention of European politics or issues of global politics or partnership.
After the debate, German Green MEP Sven Giegold tweeted: “The whole of Europe is watching the Bundestag elections, but the election campaign is not looking at Europe. “
He added that it was “an embarrassment for the biggest country in the EU”.
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Mr Scholz, who is finance minister, used the issue of social inequalities to attack Mr Laschet, his main opponent.
He reiterated that as Chancellor he would raise a minimum wage of 12 euros (£ 10.27) an hour, which the CDU is opposed to.
He said: “Mr. Laschet, maybe that’s the difference between you and me.
“I am not doing it because there is an election campaign at the moment. I have been making this request for years.
“For me, it is about the dignity of citizens. Yet this is perhaps what sets us apart on this issue. “
The gap has been even larger in polls measuring the popularity of individual chancellor candidates, indicating the difficult struggle Mr Laschet faces against Mr Scholz ahead of the election.
Mr Scholz has garnered support by offering a continued level of stability adjacent to Merkel, while also proposing reforms on issues where voters believe German politics need a refresh.
Daniela Schwarzer, of the Open Society Foundations in Berlin, said: “There is no appetite for a change in policy or style.
“More and more people are fed up with Merkel’s habit of stifling politics, of not solving problems, of leading from behind. But at the same time, they don’t want disruption. “
The Germans may want to keep Merkel’s style and overall political approach, but they also want the next Chancellor to solve the problems Merkel left behind, including low-paying jobs, the digital backlog, half-hearted climate policies.
In this, Mr Scholz could offer Germany what it needs: the rational decision-making and fiscal prudence of Angela Merkel, coupled with a new approach to professional and social merit and the problems facing a Europe. post-pandemic.