Olaf Schultz update
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When asked if he was too calm this summer, Olaf Scholz retorted that he was “running for the position of principal, not a circus director”.
This is a typical rebuttal, coming from a very cool, occasionally robot, who is nicknamed “Scholzomat”. In some countries, this may be an obstacle, but in Germany, it is a virtue. Only two weeks before the country’s federal elections, Schultz is becoming a popular candidate to succeed Angela Merkel as prime minister.
This is an extraordinary development. Just a few months ago, Schultz’s Social Democrats had an approval rating of between 14% and 16% in public opinion polls. They are now 25 years old and have left Merkel’s center-right CDU/CSU behind.
Everyone seemed surprised-except Scholz himself. He has always believed that this year’s election will be special: for the first time in German post-war history, the current Chancellor does not run for re-election. “So the question… will be: What kind of people do we want to run this country?” He told the Financial Times in the summer. “And I think a lot of people will think that I am the best choice.”
In fact, Schultz’s personal approval rating has long been higher than that of his two rivals, Armin Rashet of the CDU/CSU and Annalena Belbok of the Green Party. Activities were damaged by mistakes and mistakes. Now, he seems to have successfully transformed them into better poll performance to help his long-suffering Social Democratic Party.
He did this by positioning himself as Merkel’s natural successor. Last month, Schultz even appeared on the cover of a popular magazine, making Merkel a “diamond”-the prime minister’s iconic gesture. According to a close aide, this is all aimed at part of the so-called “Merkel Socialist Party”-they “voted for the CDU/CDU when Merkel was in power, but may consider voting for the Social Democratic Party or the Green party”.
At a rally in Leipzig last Sunday, Schultz’s appeal was fully demonstrated. At first he didn’t make much impression-a thin, bald man, it looked as if he had deviated from the accountant meeting. But within a few minutes, he let the crowd eat his hands, repeating the straightforward message that was the hallmark of the Social Democratic Party’s campaign: no tax cuts for the rich; stable pensions; more social housing; and carbon neutrality economy.
He said the pandemic has shown who really matters in the crisis—the nursing staff, the elderly nurses, the supermarket cashiers, and the package deliverers. They received applause, but “applause is… not enough”. Schultz promised to increase the minimum wage to 12 euros per hour in the first year of the Social Democratic Party-led government.
One word has become the unofficial theme of Schultz’s campaign for prime minister: “Respect.” He told the British “Financial Times”: “The new crown crisis shows that our society depends on whose shoulders and who works hard, but the benefits from economic growth are still too small.”
Supporting his campaign promise is a serious political philosophy. Scholz is a fan of Michael Sandel, the author of Michael Sandel Autocratic tyranny, Who attacked the privileged and free elite world and accused them of destroying social cohesion.
Scholz, a former labor lawyer who married another senior politician of the Social Democratic Party, agrees. In an article in March, he stated that the “necessity of social mobility” has led to “a situation where all those who do not fight for a college degree or work in the creative industries of the metropolis are degraded”.
The message of “respect” seems to be having an impact. But experts downplayed the importance of the SPD’s campaign promises, many of which are difficult to implement in a coalition government. “The Social Democratic Party does not know what it will do after it takes power,” said Uwe Jun, a political scientist at the University of Trier. “Their entire campaign is centered on Scholz’s personality.”
This strategy takes advantage of the fact that Scholz is a more familiar face and no government experience than his competitor Laschet, the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, the newcomer to national politics, and the 40-year-old member of Parliament Baerbock.
Compared with the two of them, Schultz is a veteran. He was born in Osnabrück in 1958 and joined the Social Democratic Party for the first time in 1975. As a young socialist, he was committed to “overcoming the capitalist economy.” However, he later became a leader of the moderates of the Social Democratic Party. Since 2011, he has served as the Federal Minister of Labor and the Mayor of Hamburg under Merkel’s leadership for seven years. Then in 2018, he became Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Merkel’s fourth government.
In this role, he cleverly guided Germany through the pandemic and assumed 400 billion euros in debt to form one of the most generous economic relief programs in developed countries.
But others are more skeptical of his record. At the Leipzig rally, Jean-Paul Walter, the voter who voted for the first time, cited what he called Schultz’s failures during his tenure-the riots and payments he did not foresee or prevent at the Hamburg G20 summit in 2017. The downfall of the company Wirecard and his role in the Cum-Ex tax fraud scandal, a series of stock transactions robbed the German treasury of billions of euros in revenue. “After all this, how can I trust the Social Democratic Party?” he asked.
Scholz stated that his Treasury Department “drew the correct conclusion” from the Wirecard incident and amended a series of laws to improve financial supervision. “We took action without hesitation,” he said.
Walter didn’t believe it. “I want him to say that I messed up, and I’m sorry. But he obviously doesn’t have the ability to take responsibility.”