With his party in the lead before the elections, Social Democrat Olaf Scholz can lead Germany.
The Social Democratic candidate for German chancellor Olaf Scholz has become the country’s most popular politician and the main contender for victory in the elections to the Bundestag, which will be held two weeks later, on 26 September.
The SPD has traditionally advocated close ties with Russia, and Scholz himself chaired the board of directors of the company that built the South Stream gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine. Perild.com tells what to expect from Scholz.
Merkel’s party loses chances
According to the results of a blitz poll conducted by the public-legal TV channel ARD after the TV debate of candidates for chancellor, on September 12, 41 percent of respondents gave preference to the candidate from the Social Democratic Party of Germany, Olaf Scholz.
Armin Laschet, the candidate from the ruling conservative bloc CDU / CSU, whose victory is expected by the incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Annalena Berbock, from the opposition Greens with the toughest line towards Russia, are lagging behind – 27 and 25 points, respectively.
Thus, the Minister of Finance and SPD candidate Scholz not only strengthened the role of the leader, but also widened the gap. At the end of August, he won the first televised debate on the private television channel RTL, with a score of 36 percent. After the second debate, Scholz was named the winner and most of those who have not yet decided notes DW.
Most often, televised debates do not affect the results of the elections to the Bundestag, but now they are of much greater importance, since they are considered almost the last chance of Laschet to save the ruling coalition from losing.
In pre-election polls, the CDU / CSU bloc ranks second with 20-22 percent, lagging behind the SPD by three to six points. The same applies to Berbock, whose party Union 90 / Greens is in third place in the polls, she has 15-17 percent, although in the spring it was in first.
Despite the fact that Merkel leaves Germany in the role of one of the most influential and respected states in the world, an active participant in global processes, the second televised debate did not touch upon foreign policy issues. Only Berbock casually mentioned that she was in favor of a “more active foreign policy”, which is associated with her intention to head the Foreign Ministry.
What can change with the arrival of Scholz
Olaf Scholz, vice-chancellor and finance minister in the government of Angela Merkel, grew up in Hamburg, where the positions of the Social Democrats are traditionally strong. There he received a law degree and worked as a lawyer. His party career began in the 1980s, when he was deputy head of the SPD youth organization.
Later, the politician was a member of the Bundestag, a senator in Hamburg, and at the beginning of the 2000s he joined the team of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, taking the post of general secretary of the party in 2002. In the first of the four coalition governments of Merkel, he was minister of labor, then mayor of Hamburg and again minister, now – finance, in the last cabinet of Merkel.
Scholz rarely spoke about Russia, and there is little public information about his connections. Presumably, Scholz’s first contacts with Moscow could have been in the 1980s, when he was a member of youth socialist organizations that maintained ties with the USSR.
The SPD in Hamburg has strong ties with Russia and, in particular, with the partner city of St. Petersburg. This was especially evident in the 1990s, when the Germans organized humanitarian food supplies there.
In 2012, he became the chairman of the board of directors of the South Stream Transport AG consortium, a joint project between Gazprom and European companies to build the South Stream gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine, which was not implemented.
However, the politician has repeatedly made harsh statements about the annexation of Crimea and the human rights situation in Russia, and also criticized the Kremlin because of what is happening with the opposition leader Alexei Navalny. But he said nothing about Nord Stream 2.
In general, Scholz is in favor of a dialogue with Russia and regrets that European leaders have not been able to agree on the German-French proposal to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He emphasizes that he “has no illusions” about the Russian leadership, but, despite this, he is sure: “To improve the situation, it is necessary to have bridges and communication channels.”
Therefore, a deterioration in relations with Moscow is not expected in the event of Scholz’s victory. First of all, this would contradict the line of the party, which has not yet forgotten about such legacy of the FRG Chancellor, Social Democrat Willy Brandt, as “Ostpolitika” (the policy of the country’s leadership on rapprochement with the GDR and the socialist states of Eastern Europe).
At the same time, Scholz himself positions himself as the “heir” of Merkel. Much will depend on which parties will join the coalition, experts say.
“If the Greens join the coalition, and this is very likely, the policy towards Russia will not change,” quotes DW Stefan Meister, expert at the German Society for Foreign Policy.
There is no need to wait for the lifting of sanctions against Russia or the recognition of Crimea as Russian territory, and Berlin’s support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will not change, Meister said.