How to play James Bond after Sean Connery, the difficult task of the next German chancellor

The three candidates to succeed Angela Merkel in the German Chancellery: Annalena Baerbock of the Greens, Armin Laschet of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Olaf Scholz of the SPD Social Democrats, during one of the television debates. Michael Kappeler / Pool via REUTERS

The daily Bild described what is being experienced in Germany as “The most exciting Chancery thriller of all time.” The outcome of the general elections on September 26 is absolutely uncertain. The bar set by the leader who has governed since 2005 is so high that the Germans are having a hard time finding the new chancellor among the three leaders who come forward to replace her. The surveys show that voters They go from one end to the other without being completely convinced by anyone. Is that after 16 years, Angela Dorothea Merkel, he became almost as characteristic an element of the German landscape as the little man at the traffic lights of Berlin or the tourist circuit of the Black Forest. Like a rugged outcrop from the snowy verticalities of the Hochfrottspitze, this “Little tractor” of the center-right Christian democracy It has remained like a firm rock during four legislatures of serious economic and political crises not only at the country level but throughout the continent.

Annalena Baerbock, from the Green party it appeared at the beginning of the campaign as the favorite. A change of perspective for the government at a crucial time for the economy and politics to stand behind caring for the environment. Then it was Armin Lachet, the leader of the same party as Merkel, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who led the polls, but did not make a good impression in the first two television debates. Is now SPD Social Democrat and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who have better chances. Anyway, there is an open ending.

An ARD television network poll, conducted after last Sunday’s 90-minute debate, showed that 41% of respondents think Scholz is the most compelling candidate, compared to 27% endorsement for Laschet and 25% for Baerbock. Scholz showed solidity when faced during the face-to-face with questions from one of his rivals about the alleged role of his ministry in the obstruction of money laundering investigations. The authorities are evaluating whether the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), an agency under the control of the Ministry of Finance, did not act on warnings from banks about possible money laundering.

Iconic image of Angela Merkel leading the G20 leaders confronting Donald Trump.
Iconic image of Angela Merkel leading the G20 leaders confronting Donald Trump.

The prestigious British magazine The Economist, which conducts broad surveys taking into account variables other than traditional surveys, believes that anyway Scholz has a “3 in 4” chance of reaching the chancery, Laschet “1 in 4” and Baerbock “1 in 20”. And it is possible that at least two of them end up arming a coalition government with the most voted as chancellor. Merkel assures that she withdraws completely from the political scene, but it is likely that she will end up being the one to bless, like a living pope, her successor.

Chancellor remains Germany’s most popular politician, with 66 percent approval. That position also extends to much of the rest of Europe. Everyone is going to miss her. He is retiring after having marked Europe’s destiny like no other head of government in the last 16 years. Merkel negotiated with four French presidents, five British prime ministers, four U.S. presidents and eight Italian prime ministers. He led the largest European economy and the Eurozone crises, Brexit, waves of refugees and the Covid pandemic. Emmanuel Macron appears as his natural successor at the European levelBut she does not enjoy the consensus that Merkel had obtained despite the great ideological differences with her Social Democratic colleagues.

Electoral polls place Scholz, the Social Democrat
Election polls place Scholz, the “Merkelian” Social Democrat, as the favorite to reach the German Chancellery. / EPA / CLEMENS BILAN

The successor will have to deal, first and foremost, with the pandemic, which is currently in its fourth wave in Germany, with increasing numbers of infected and a worrying dynamic when the autumn and winter months come around that can aggravate the situation. You will also have to face the consequences of the dramatic floods of July in the west of the country. Not only did they leave great damage, but they brought to the fore the political urgency of combating climate change. It also hits the Germans the chaotic departure of western troops from Afghanistan. Germany was militarily involved in that country for 20 years, with a cost to taxpayers of about 12,500 million euros. Criticism for the handling of the withdrawal was accompanied by the debate on the reception of Afghan migrants and the concern that a migration crisis such as that of 2015 could be repeated. And on the continental plane there are long-term crises, such as the tense relationship with Russia or China, the problematic links with Turkey or the fractures within the European Union itself, in particular with countries such as Poland or Hungary.

If the Germans ended up choosing Olaf Scholz as Markel’s successor, they would have as their leader a very experienced economist. Until the Covid pandemic he had a reputation for being cautious in fiscal matters, but was instrumental in driving the EU’s € 750 billion recovery plan ($ 886 billion) and a national stimulus package worth € 130 billion. However, your generosity has limits. Leans less to the left than many members of his party, and wants Germany to return to the “debt brake” in 2023, which imposes strict limits on federal and state government spending. In addition, in recent years he has acquired a charisma that he did not have. In the early 2000s they called him “Scholz-o-mat” for its robotic behavior. And he will have to loosen up even more to occupy the office of the “little tractor” Merkel. As a humorous commentator for The Guardian newspaper put it: Being the next German Chancellor is like playing James Bond after Sean Connery.


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