Who is Olaf Scholz: what the SPD candidate could mean for Germany, the EU and Brexit | World | New
When Germany goes to the polls on September 26, Angela Merkel will end her 16 years in power. The German public is now faced with a choice, between staying in the party she has led for so long – the same one that has been in power for 51 of the last 71 years – or voting for someone new. But is a vote for Olaf Scholz really any different? Here’s a look at who the next possible German Chancellor is.
Who is Olaf Scholz?
Olaf Scholz, 63, has been German Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister of Finance since March 2018.
Mr Scholz is a former labor lawyer married to another senior SPD politician Britta Ernst.
Born in 1958 in Osnabrück, he first joined the SPD in 1975 and, as a young socialist, campaigned to “overcome the capitalist economy”.
But later he became a leader of the moderate wing of the SPD, serving as federal labor minister under Angela Merkel and mayor of Hamburg for seven years from 2011.
Then in 2018, he became finance minister and vice-chancellor of Merkel’s fourth government.
In this role, he successfully led Germany through the pandemic, taking 400 billion euros in debt to assemble one of the developed world’s most generous economic bailouts and garnering broad public support.
READ MORE: Who is Armin Laschet? What the CDU candidate could mean for Germany and the EU
What would a victory mean for Scholz?
While a victory for Mr Scholz would mean a victory for the SPD – a party that has always lagged behind Ms Merkel’s CDU – many see a victory for Mr Scholz as, in fact, a continuation of security provided by Merkel after the shock and trauma of the pandemic.
Daniela Schwarzer, of the Open Society Foundations in Berlin, said: “There is no appetite for a change in policy or style.
“But there is an appetite for a non-CDU chancellor at one point.
“More and more people are fed up with Merkel’s habit of stifling politics, not solving problems, leading from behind. But at the same time, they don’t want disruption. “
The Germans may want to keep Merkel’s style and overall political approach, but they also want the next Chancellor to solve the problems Merkel left behind, including low-paying jobs, the digital backlog, half-hearted climate policies.
In this, Mr Scholz could offer Germany what it needs: the rational decision-making and fiscal prudence of Angela Merkel, coupled with a new approach to professional and social merit and the problems facing a Europe. post-pandemic.
In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Scholz spoke of the social unrest in Western countries and the rise of right-wing politics.
Mr Scholz said he could awaken Europe’s center-left with a double promise: to ensure the sustainability of his country’s economic success, while putting an end to the myth that individual success is always self-taught.
During a campaign rally he said: ‘Why did Britain vote for Brexit if it was against its own best interests? Why did America vote for Trump?
“I think it’s because people have deep social insecurities and lack appreciation for what they do.
“We see the same dissatisfaction and the same insecurity not only in the United States or the United Kingdom, but also in the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Austria or Germany – countries that may seem from the outside to have no problem.
“Among certain professional classes, there is a meritocratic exuberance that has led people to believe that their success is completely self-taught.
“As a result, those who keep the series on the road are not getting the respect they deserve. This has to change.”
And what about Germany’s Covid debt repayment? He also has a plan for that.
He told the Guardian: “The EU as a union is contracting joint loans to help states bring this crisis under control. We have agreed that these debts will ultimately be repaid.
“This is where the new moment comes in: these debts will not be reimbursed by national contributions based on the GDP of each Member State, but by new European own resources.
“It will make a big difference for the future development of Europe.”