The Minister of Finance is the natural candidate for a Social Democratic Party whose chances of acceding to the Chancellery in 2021 are slim. To what extent will this representative of the liberal wing of the SPD be supported by his party?
After a few weeks of semi-suspense, the leadership of the Social Democratic Party has officially appointed Olaf Scholz as the SPD candidate for the chancellery, in view of the federal elections in September 2021. The announcement was made on Monday, via a series of tweets from party co-chair Saskia Esken. “We know that this decision represents an unexpected turn of events for some”, she immediately conceded to the left wing of the SPD, from which she herself came, which could be moved to see itself represented in the race for the chancellery by the liberal Scholz. The party co-leader, in her post since last fall, praised the Federal Minister of Finance and Vice-Chancellor, “Reliable and team-oriented partner who can and wants to fight for social democratic policies in this country and who shares with us the vision of a just society. Olaf has the Chancellor’s spark! ” even concludes the one which took away the head of the party eight months ago – if Scholz was given favorite, the duo ranked more to the left made up of two strangers, Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans, had ended up winning the election.
One year away from the federal elections of 2021, when the conservatives of the CDU-CSU have resumed colors in the polls (around 38% of voting intentions), but have not yet nominated a candidate to succeed Angela Merkel, Olaf Scholz is the inevitable candidate of a bloodless SPD – credited today with 14% of the voting intentions in the polls, against 18% for the Grünen (equivalent to the Greens), and 8% for the AfD.
Worthy heir to the ordoliberal Wolfgang Schäuble
Appointed Minister of Finance and Vice-Chancellor in 2018, after having been mayor of opulent Hamburg for seven years, Olaf Scholz was first distinguished by his attachment to the dogma of German budgetary rigor – in this, he is the worthy heir to the ordoliberal Wolfgang Schäuble, to whom he succeeded Finance.
But the Covid-19 turned everything upside down: in March, faced with the historic economic crisis affecting Europe and therefore Germany, the government put an end to the totem of zero budget deficit, the Black zero ; in June, a recovery plan of 130 billion euros was announced. Scholz is therefore mechanically associated with these Copernican revolutions, which has benefited him politically. Regarding European issues, we have seen him very active in recent months, particularly during negotiations to draw up the EU’s recovery plan; he spared no effort to convey the image of a proactive Franco-German couple, in particular by showing his closeness to Bruno Le Maire.
A strong ally or a first-rate repellent, Olaf Scholz can also count on the support of former SPD chancellor Gerhard Schröder. It must also be said that Scholz has always defended what Schröder considers to be his great work, Agenda 2010, a vast series of labor reforms launched in the 2000s. Very controversial within the SPD, these ultraliberal measures have made his base flee more to the left. In any case, the left of the SPD is hostile to Scholz – especially its youth branch, the Jusos.
Who could the SPD rule with if they win? On Monday, the other leader of the Social Democratic Party, Norbert Walter-Borjans, indicated not to exclude a coalition with the left of Die Linke. All these projections are in any case only particularly hazardous speculations, since currently, according to the polls, an alliance of the SPD, the Greens and Die Linke would not have a majority.
Heard in connection with a financial scandal
In Germany, the candidacy of Olaf Scholz for the chancellery only arouses the passions very weakly, in spite of a facade enthusiasm of the press, anxious to shake off the languor of August with the famous «K-Question», “Question C” for “chancellor”. It must be said that this candidacy has so little chance of success that mockery is easy. On Twitter, the satirical ZDF program on Today’s show posted a photo depicting Scholz and Martin Schulz, unsuccessful candidate for chancellery in 2017. In the picture, Schulz appears to confide in Scholz: “I have lots of stuff left from my electoral campaign, there is just a letter to change and it’s good!”
Finally, Olaf Scholz was recently heard by the Bundestag’s Finance Committee, in the context of a particularly sticky financial scandal, that of Wirecard. If this accounting fraud of nearly 2 billion euros was revealed last June, light must still be shed on the circumstances that allowed a company to inflate its accounts by 1.9 billion euros without any safeguards . A recent report revealed that Olaf Scholz was aware of the existence, as early as 2019, of an investigation by the financial regulator BaFin into “Suspected violation of the ban on market manipulation” by Wirecard. However, the latter claims to have “Make sure everyone knows exactly what we know”, and promises, so that such a scandal cannot happen again, reforms.