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On the eve of the most controversial vote in Germany’s modern history, Angela Merkel renewed her plea to support the CDU/CSU candidate, Armin Laschet. With tomorrow’s elections “Germany’s stability at stake”, the chancellor declared at the Laschet rally in Aachen. “It is not the same who governs,” Merkel said, stressing that “tax increases threaten to stifle the recovery.” Laschet said: “He not only successfully governed North Rhine-Westphalia, but also did much for Europe: his actions were based on the idea of building bridges. Throughout his political life he demonstrated his commitment to cohesion.”
A school endorsement, by the counsellor, is similar in words and tones to many of the appeals that have been issued in recent times. An acknowledgment with awareness that you and your government will likely be needed for several weeks, given the tangible possibility that it will take a long time to fire a new CEO. In fact, the latest opinion polls depicted the minimal distance between the SPD and the CDU/CSU parties. For the Chance survey, the Social Democrats held steady at 25% of the vote against the Conservative Union’s 22%, with the Green Party trailing at 17%. According to an Allensbach survey, the game is more specific, with SPD first with 26%, but only one point behind CDU/CSU. The Greens are chasing by a distance of 16% of the consensus, the FDP liberals – who aim to tip the scales in future government negotiations – are just 10.5%.
Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, confirmed that the chancellor will work at full capacity until the appointment of the new CEO. She declared that Merkel would work “at full capacity” until the last day she would be in office, on the premise of waiting several weeks – if not months – to solve the mystery that might come out of the polls. After the elections, the outgoing government will continue to make its decisions in accordance with the terms of the German Basic Law. After all, it took five and a half months to form the current government, so much so that one journalist went so far as to ask Seibert sarcastically if he thought Merkel would make the New Year’s address. Merkel already announced in July that she would remain focused on her commitment as chancellor until the last day: “There will be things that will be required of me. And this will continue until the last day in office.” As for what he will do after 16 years in government, he said he will rest and take some time to think before making a decision.
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In the evening, everything indicates that Berlin will need some time before its new government is informed of the world. A three-party coalition looks inevitable, with the Liberal Democrats from the FDP poised to tip the balance.
There are 47 parties in the running for elections, but few have realistic chances of crossing the 5% threshold to enter the Bundestag. There are three parties presenting a candidate for chancellorship: Merkel’s conservative bloc, which is competing with Laschet; SPD, working with current Finance Minister Olaf Schulz; And the greens who run with Annalina Barbock. Other parties that can join the coalition are: the Liberal Democratic Party (Fdp) and the far-left party Die Linke. But no one intends to ally with the xenophobic far right of the Alternative for Germany (AfD).
Tomorrow night’s results will show which alliances are mathematically possible, but then the parties will have to discuss what is politically feasible. Coalitions are usually indicated according to party colors: black for the conservative CDU/Csu bloc, red for SPD and Die Linke, green for Grünen, and yellow for the Fdp. So one can hear about Jamaica-Kenya alliance, traffic lights, etc., depending on which party groups are coloured.
This is the first time since 1949 that a candidate trying to be re-elected has missed an election. The SPD chose Schultz in August 2020; The Greens named Baerbock last March (its rising star has gradually lost its luster); The CDU/CSU twin party candidate, Laschet, emerged in April after an internal dispute.
Now eyes are mainly focused on Schulze, who remains – surprisingly – the favorite. Sixty-three, a specialist in labor law, Schultz is the current Treasury Secretary and Vice Chancellor, the latest in a series of senior positions. He is an old politician, has a sober, no-nonsense style, and is considered typical of Hamburg, where he once worked as a lawyer. Unfazed and unwaveringly self-confident, however, he is not a master of public speaking. He became mayor of Hamburg in 2011, remaining in office until 2018, the year in which he was appointed vice-chancellor. He ran for the presidency of the Social Democratic Party in 2019, but was rejected, losing to Norbert Walter Borgens and Saskia Esken. As finance minister, he has called for a global minimum tax of at least 15% for large companies, and has led efforts to stem the financial impact of the pandemic. In this latter role, he ended up having a broad vision, above all thanks to emergency funds to support the economy and citizens. “This is the bazooka you need to make, let us put all our weapons on the table to show that we are strong enough to overcome any economic hardship that may ensue,” he said confidently. A far cry from the tunes for which he was famous in the past, linked to the image of the technocratic bureaucrat who earned him Die Zeit’s nickname “Schulzomat” (breaking the nickname and the word automat, i.e. machine). If his party really wins, after 16 years of CDU = Merkel government, he will also need to add a good dose of political insight to the math. Germany will take some time to recognize its new face in the mirror; In the meantime, Merkel will remain there to move the country toward that corridor.
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