Chancellor / SPD
Olaf Scholz (Osnabrück, 1958) crowns a political career that started early with the chancellorship. At the age of 17 he joined the Jusos, the youth association of the SPD. He held administrative positions there and advocated a radical left-wing course. He later worked as a lawyer, specializing in employment law. From 1998 to 2011, Scholz was a member of the Bundestag, with interruptions as Minister of Employment and as Minister of the city-state of Hamburg, where he was mayor for seven years. He subsequently became Minister of Finance in the current Merkel cabinet.
Scholz’s candidacy as chancellor was controversial within the party: the left wing found him too moderate, too technocratic, too lacking in social-democratic enthusiasm. Scholz takes advantage of his reputation as a boring politician, and finds his nickname Scholzomat “appropriate”. His campaign for the election in September proved surprisingly successful, perhaps because voters hoped for continuity in Merkel’s line.
During the formation, Scholz was invisible, unlike the leaders of the other two coalition parties. Like Annalena Baerbock, Scholz lives in Potsdam, near Berlin.
General Affairs (Kanzleramt) / SPD
Wolfgang Schmidt (Hamburg, 1970), trained as a lawyer, has long been Olaf Scholz’s closest collaborator, confidant and strategist. Their careers go hand in hand: where Scholz goes, Schmidt becomes his right-hand man. That was true when Scholz was secretary general of the SPD, when he was mayor of Hamburg and when he was a minister. Now again: Schmidt will be State Secretary for Finance for a while.
Schmidt is a active twitterer, with the mention ‘Hier privat unterwegs’ (in a personal capacity). Compared to the Scholz rationale, Schmidt is much more emotional in his presentation, for example when talking about the Hamburg football club St. Pauli goes. The relatively unknown Schmidt would become a key player in the cabinet, stepping out of the shadows for the first time.
Foreign Affairs / Greens
Annalena Baerbock (Hannover, 1980) was the surprise of the election campaign this year and even seemed to be heading for the chancellorship for some time. But negative publicity and unconvincing performance in TV debates put an end to that.
Baerbock has been in the Bundestag on behalf of Bündnis 90/Die Grünen since 2013. In 2018, she became party chairman, a position shared with Robert Habeck. Baerbock was a candidate for the chancellorship in the parliamentary elections on September 26. More than the other candidates, she was confronted with disinformation and fake news about herself and her views, partly spread by Russian media. Baerbock’s reputation was damaged this summer by revelations about late reporting of ancillary income, polishing her resume and plagiarism in a personal book.
On foreign policy, Baerbock is in favor of stronger EU foreign policy, especially in relation to China and Russia. It supports NATO’s eastern expansion and opposes Nord Stream 2, the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. Her critical attitude towards Russia could clash with Chancellor Scholz.
Economic Affairs and Climate (also Vice-Chancellor)
Robert Habeck (Lübeck, 1969) graduated philosopher and writer. He wrote children’s books and translated English poetry, and published six novels with his wife Andrea Paluch. Since 2009, he has been active for the Greens in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, including as Minister of Economy, Agriculture and Environment. In 2017 he lost the battle for the party chairmanship to Cem Özdemir, but since January 2018 he shares that position with Annalena Baerbock. When Baerbeck came under fire for scandals this summer, pressure arose on Habeck to take over the chancellor’s candidacy from her, but did not. As minister of the new super ministry of Economic Affairs & Climate, Habeck would have a crucial voice in German climate policy.
Christian Lindner (Wuppertal, 1979) was in many of his positions ‘the youngest ever’. In 2000 he entered politics as a member of parliament in North Rhine-Westphalia, and from 2009 to 2012 he was a member of the Bundestag.
Since 2013, he has been party chairman of the Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP). As campaign manager, he brought the Liberals back to the Bundestag in the 2017 parliamentary elections after a four-year absence. After months of negotiations, he then clapped a Merkel coalition with CDU/CSU, FDP and Greens, saying “Better not to rule than to rule wrong”.
Lindner, commercially successful, sporting expensive suits and a Porsche and popular with young people, has transformed the image of the FDP from sluggish to enterprising. As Treasury Secretary, Lindner would succeed Olaf Scholz. In the Süddeutsche Zeitung Linder already announced that he did not want to tamper with the debt ceiling (Schuldenbremse), a tricky topic in German and European politics.
Distribution of ministries by party:
SPD: Chancellery (General Affairs), Home Affairs, Public Health, Employment and Social Affairs, Defence, Building and Housing, Economic Cooperation
Bundnis 90/Die Grünen: Foreign Affairs, Economic Affairs & Climate, Family, Agriculture, Environment
FDP: Finance, Justice, Education, Traffic
NRC The Hague Mood
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