Correspondent in Berlin
The polls after the first television debate, broadcast last night by the German networks N-Tv and RTL, indicate that the winner of the face-to-face among the three main candidates it was the social democrat Olaf Scholz. 36% of the spectators questioned perceived it this way, compared to 30% who favored the green candidate Annalena Baerbock and 25% who preferred the conservative Armin Laschet, Merkel’s successor at the head of the CDU. For the three candidates it is “difficult to bear the comparison with Merkel”, analyzes the director of the Academy of Political Education of Tutzing Ursula Münch, who recognizes that the laconic style of Scholz during the debate seems to have benefited him.
While Baerbock and Laschet at times opted for a more combative and accusing tone, Scholz adopted that imperturbable calm to which Merkel has accustomed the German electorate, far from accusations and much less disqualification, above partisanship and embracing voters at the same time. of all parties. And the formula seems to keep working. The analyst of ‘Die Welt’, Nikolaus Doll, condenses this reflection by alluding to the nickname with which the German electorate has affectionately described the German Chancellor during the last four legislatures: After “Mama Merkel” comes “Papa Scholz”.
The strategy of the three candidates avoided direct attacks. No one mentioned on the television set that candidate Scholz, as finance minister, carries behind his back with two of the biggest financial scandals of the history of the Federal Republic, Cum-ex and Wirecard. Scholz, moreover, was careful not to go into details about his policies, using phrases such as “I swear I will dedicate my time and energy to the welfare of the German people.” “It is the voice of Helmut Schidt, when he was sworn in as Federal Chancellor in 1974,” recalls Doll, “this is the subliminal message: Scholz is Schmidt.”
Having worked side by side with Merkel in recent years, surely at a much higher level of collaboration than Laschet’s with the chancellor, despite the fact that they belong to the same political party, also seems to be bringing benefits to the Social Democratic candidate. In his speech, he openly slides the idea that he sees himself as Angela Merkel’s natural successor. He only needs to fold his hands into a diamond shape for photographers. “Olaf Scholz is a professional in countering attacks,” says political scientist Wolfgang Schroeder, “his strategy is not to defend himself and thus not offer himself as a target to opponents.”
In the more than four decades in which he has been politically active, the now 63-year-old vice chancellor has weathered many storms. He was nicknamed “King Olaf” when his party exiled him as mayor of Hamburg, to distance his profile as a candidate for chancellor. In fact, they allowed her notoriety again only after the last elections, when the SPD agreed to form another grand coalition for “state responsibility”, after other Merkel negotiations failed, and with the leadership convinced that this association would mean the electoral death of those who participated most visibly in it. Often the object of ridicule for his austere demeanor and his automaton-toned speeches, which have also earned him the nickname “Scholzomat”, he has nevertheless become the German politician with the most charisma and the highest index of preference in the face of September 26 elections.