Merkel is leaving. After 16 years at the helm of Germany, the most powerful woman in the world leaves politics of her own accord. And later? Uncertainty. The September 26 elections are presented as the tightest in years and the Chancellery will be played between three candidates who share the basic programmatic as to attract the voter from the center. However, each of the three candidates has a clearly distinguishable profile and the fight will be in the details.
Annalena Baerbock (The Greens)
A competent and pragmatic negotiator
Co-president of Los Verdes, 40, she studied Political Science in Hamburg and pursued a Master’s degree in International Public Law at the prestigious London School of Economics. She worked as chief of staff of a green MEP for three years, then turned to regional politics (Brandenburg parliament) and national politics (Bundestag).
Strengths: Energetic, confident and compelling. Competent and detailed. Pragmatic and good negotiator. It gives the necessary renovating profile, but far from any radicalism, to attract those who seek a change in German politics, especially to male candidates and 20 years older.
Weaknesses: He has never held an executive position.
Probes: Some of the most recent polls rank Los Verdes as the second force, behind the CDU / CSU. In the studies of the last week they obtained between 20 and 22% of the votes.
Possible coalitions: If they win, they could lead a government with the Conservatives as a minority partner, a sum that is systematically majority. They could also form two types of governments: the so-called ‘traffic light coalition’, of greens, social democrats (red) and liberals (yellow) or a progressive tripartite with the Social Democrats and the Left. These would be more complex at the arithmetic and programmatic level.
Armin Laschet (CDU)
The son of a miner who embodies continuity
President of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and head of government of North Rhine-Westphalia, he is 60 years old. He is the son of a miner, grew up in a Catholic family and studied law, but he has dedicated his entire professional life to politics, where he has been almost everything.
Strengths: He is centrist, tenacious and pragmatic. Experienced, but with your feet on the ground. Persevering and with people skills, he is recognized as having a great capacity to build bridges and forge consensus.
Weaknesses: Represents Merkelian continuity -in form and substance- at a time when Germany is looking for fresh air and renewal. It is prone to screw up.
ProbesAlthough it had lost 10 percentage points since the beginning of the year to be tied with Los Verdes, it has regained support and this week polls place the German conservative bloc at 28%.
Possible coalitions: With their refusal to agree with the Left and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), they could only stay in government hand in hand with the Greens, either as the main coalition party or as a minority partner. A tripartite with liberals and social democrats is implausible.
Olaf Scholz (SPD)
A moderate-profile financial expert
Minister of Finance for the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and vice chancellor in Angela Merkel’s grand coalition, this 62-year-old labor lawyer jumped into politics in the 1980s to progressively shift from initial anti-capitalism to social-liberalism. He has been president and general secretary of his party, as well as parliamentarian, mayor-governor of Hamburg and minister of Labor before his current position in Finance.
Strengths: Experienced, intelligent and persistent. For the average voter it is moderate, reliable and upright. Analytical and detailed, he is considered competent in economic matters.
Weaknesses: Speaking monotonous and not passionate, it is boring in the campaign and in parliament, sometimes bordering on the robotic. Distant. In leadership positions for years, he is linked to the decline of his party.
ProbesA pillar of imperfect German bipartisanship for decades, the SPD has been in decline for two legislatures, in part due to coalition with the Conservatives to govern. The latest polls give him between 14 and 16%, a third place that could be worth repeating as a minority partner.
Possible coalitions: It could act as a crutch for whoever comes first, but it would probably take a third to achieve a stable majority. This would complicate coalition negotiations.