For the succession of Merkel, Germany has the choice of stability and CDU candidate Armin Laschet or the renewal with the Green candidate Annalena Baerbock.
Post-war German politics are pretty boring. Quiet stability reigns, passionate dramas are rare. The political tension is rising in the last two weeks. There is a power struggle between Armin Laschet and Markus Söder among the Christian Democrats and the remarkable choice of Annalena Baerbock among die Grünen are therefore unusual.
After 16 years of steadfast rule, Angela Merkel is calling it quits. On September 27, the Germans are looking for a new chancellor. Germany faces a clear choice, which will also affect the rest of Europe. Will the Germans again opt for continuity of the Große Koalitionen between the CDU and the SPD? Or do they opt for innovation with the greens?
If we are to believe the latest polls, it will be a steep climb for Laschet and Scholz. With the popular Bavarian Söder, the Christian Democrats had an alternative chancellor candidate who could have pushed the sister parties of the CDU and the CSU back to 40% but bet with Laschet on the return of the German urge for stability after the summer. The Greens decided to put forward a chancellor candidate for the first time and, with Baerbock, opted for a younger woman with mountains of file knowledge and fresh ideas who is closer to a new generation of voters.
The contrast in policy choices between Armin Laschet and Annalena Baerbock is great. Laschet is a cheerful traditional politician from the Ruhr area and seems to come from another era. He says there is a lot to change in the German economy, but it is hard to hide his love for coal, industry and diesel engines. In his state of North Rhine-Westphalia, you can hardly speak of a progressive climate policy. He also adheres to strict budget rules and wants to return to Wolfgang Schäuble’s black zero as soon as possible.
Laschet stands for close cooperation with Vladimir Putin’s Russia and wants to quickly complete the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline. He sees China mainly as a growth market for German exports. He is less concerned about the political situation in Hong Kong or Xinjiang. Like Helmut Kohl and Merkel, he is a traditional Atlanticus (pro-NATO) who supports incremental steps in European integration and is relatively lenient towards Hungary and Poland.
Baerbock has only been in the Bundestag as a Member of Parliament since 2013. Baerbock became the Greens President together with Habeck in 2018. The telegenic lawyer is facing a radical revolution in the German economy. Her party wants to transform Germany into a pioneer in alternative energy and a leader in the fight against global warming. She also wants to bring about a digital revolution in the public sector, including education.
Its digital and climate policy will require tens of billions of euros in new investment. New loans will only be possible if the Schuldenbremse (debt brake), which is enshrined in the German constitution, is scrapped. The Greens are enthusiastic supporters of this.
In foreign policy, Baerbock wants to draw a line under the cosy relationships with authoritarian regimes. Human rights and the rule of law principles will be central and often take precedence over economic interests. Putin and Xi Jinping have already been warned, as have Viktor Orbán in Budapest and Jaroslaw Kaczyński in Warsaw.
Glossless corona response
The German stability turned into a tower of strength during the many European crises of the last 15 years. But the obsession with budgetary tightness and nostalgia for the old industrial economy has also led to little investment in infrastructure and technology. The lacklustre policy response to the corona pandemic has only further exposed those problems.
In a sense, Germany’s problems are also those of Europe. If they really want to work on EU sovereignty in Brussels, they will have to take a different budgetary approach. Joe Biden shows in the United States that a progressive policy is possible from the centre. The Greens seem better placed to finally bring Germany into the 21st century than the Christian Democrats.
Germany has almost always opted for stability since Konrad Adenauer, and it may well be that it will do so again in September. But many wonder if the old formula still works? A new generation of voters in a culturally more diverse country is emerging. The traditional centre parties have no convincing answers to their questions.
September 2021 could be a turning point in the political future of Germany and Europe. In the meantime, the coronavirus still dominates daily life. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but the road is still long. This certainly applies to the Christian Democrats, but just as much to the Greens.
Disclaimer: all opinions in this article are of Harold Sullivan’s and not The Simple Herald.