German chancellor candidates promise to compete for better climate action and preparedness for extreme conditions. The setup of the September elections is changing in a significant way, writes HSja’s foreign journalist Sonja Parkkinen.
In Germany politicians know what kind of tightrope walking is aftercare for natural disasters. Especially as elections approach.
The devastating floods of recent days, just a couple of months before the most significant federal elections in German recent history, are reminiscent of the August 2002 floods in Central Europe.
At the time, the Christian Democrat chancellor and prime minister of the Bavarian state Edmund Stoiber led the September election polls. In Germany, when the Danube and Elbe rivers flooded, the Chancellor, Social Democrats Gerhard Schröder, second in support measurements, immediately traveled to the floodplain. He was photographed on the spot dressed casually in a raincoat and without a tie promising support to the residents of the area.
Stoiber refused to suspend his vacation because in rubber boots, touring would be easily seen as polishing the image.
Stoiber continued his holiday and visited the Bavarian region of his home state only days later. She was wearing a collared shirt and tie.
In September, the Social Democrats won the election and Schröder was given an extension. Visits to the floodplain were considered fatal to Stoiber.
There is no choice but to join the race to promise various climate actions.
Distress at the moment, those in power are at an advantage, as their presence in the midst of a disaster is expected and not the search for political breakpoints.
The current Chancellor Angela Merkelin the most likely successor, the CDU and the CSU To Armin Laschet flood aftercare is a place for a thousand bucks. He is not only the leading chancellor candidate but also the prime minister of one of the worst-affected states, North Rhine-Westphalia.
Laschet canceled all his travels and immediately traveled on Thursday to the flood-raving town of Hagen – without a tie and wearing a raincoat.
Social Democrat Chancellor Candidate Olaf Scholz interrupted his holiday and visited the state of Rhineland-Palatinate on Thursday, where the devastation is widespread. As Minister of Finance, Scholz promised financial support to the regions.
The most difficult position is the opposition party, the Green Chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock, who tries to avoid Stoiber’s mistake without making the visit look like an election campaign. Baerbock also interrupted his holiday and visited Rhineland-Palatinate a day later with his candidate colleagues. SWR news channel however, Baerbock does not hold public appearances during his visit.
The line chosen by the Greens may be the first sensible decision in months, as Baerbock’s election campaign drove towards the tree before the campaign even had time to begin. The Chancellor-designate has been caught up in numerous mistakes he could have avoided with better preparation.
Read more: German Green Chancellor candidate rages in the midst of embarrassing uproar, but it is too early to declare election defeat
Now the Kohut have momentarily dissipated as media and public interest has shifted elsewhere. The German media is full of stuff about how floods and climate change are linked, how climate change is affecting Germany, and how to prepare for it.
Until now, Laschet has not made a fuss about climate change but has emphasized that climate action must not be to the detriment of industries that are important to Germany.
There is no choice but to join the race to promise various climate actions. Support for the Greens has fallen due to the uproar, but the party is still second.
Indeed, in recent days, Laschet has stated that Germany needs to step up its efforts to protect the climate and prepare for change. In addition, carbon neutrality must be achieved more quickly.
“No one could prepare because no one expected that.”
When the most acute crisis eases, those in power may no longer be at an advantage. In addition to climate change, people are wondering how such a catastrophe happened.
Representative of the German Meteorological Institute Uwe Kirschen according to the floods of recent days may not have been seen for perhaps even a thousand years. The rainfall was so severe that even small currents wreaked havoc, although they have not been considered risky.
“No one could prepare because no one expected that,” Kirsche said To The New York Times.
Still, according to information received by the media and expert assessments, preparedness for natural disasters has been weak. The consequences are reflected in the victim figures.
“Such an event should not cause so many deaths,” says the hydrometeorologist Linda Speight from the University of Reading in the UK to The New York Times.
Speight blamed the situation on communication problems. Among other things, the local authorities had been warned of the risk of flooding in good time, but according to the local resident, he did not receive information about the situation from the authorities. It has also been surprising why no evacuations have been made in the past.
German newspaper Die Welt says the floods will alert residents to the app. According to the magazine, only about one in ten Germans has downloaded the application.
In addition, the floods struck the night between Wednesday and Thursday, when the app’s announcement may not have been noticed. In many places, telephone and internet connections were also completely cut off.
Warning sirens sounded in only a few cities, as sirens were largely abandoned after the Cold War.
A warning example is the “warning day” in September last year, the first since German reunification. The day held for testing the warning systems failed completely, as the warnings did not go through due to a technical failure.
The bug was reported to have been fixed, but doubts about the true edge of the situation arose only a couple of weeks ago, Die Welt says. The German Ministry of the Interior then announced that the 2021 warning date in September had been canceled due to development work.
Investigations into the course of events are likely to be made for a long time to come. If or when shortcomings are identified, the eyes will be on the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Laschet, and his parties, which have been in power at federal level for years.
Cognoscenti have so far been moderate in their assessments of whether the exceptional floods were due to climate change. Climate researchers say it could take weeks to investigate the connection, Reuters reported.
What is clear, however, is that a rise in temperature caused by climate change will make heavy rains more likely as warmer air will bind more water, which will eventually rain down with a thunderstorm.
Soon, in addition to climate change, the Greens will have the opportunity to blame their competitors for poor preparedness and climate action. How a party succeeds in this can determine what the final letter of the election will look like.
In 2018, heißzeit was chosen as the German word of the year due to the exceptionally hot summer. Climate change came up in the debates, and support for the Greens began to hurt.
North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, which are particularly affected by the floods, are home to a total of around 22 million people, a quarter of the German population. Their distress cannot be ignored, and that is why the election setup is going to be new.
Climate elections could well rise in Germany this year.
Sources: Der Spiegel, Berliner Morgenpost, Die Welt, Politico, Deutsche Welle, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Correction 17.7. at 5.30 pm: The article incorrectly stated that Edmund Stoiber had been the Social Democrat Chancellor in 2002 and that the electoral bloc of the CDU and the CSU had won the election. In reality, Stoiber represented the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats won the election.