Germany’s Merkel Bestows Scholz a Smooth Handover at G-20
(Bloomberg) -- Angela Merkel’s appearance at the Group of Twenty summit in Rome is almost certainly her last and she left nothing to chance, including a seamless passing of the baton that impressed fellow leaders at a time when some of them are struggling to move past their differences, big and small.
Her Social Democratic finance minister, Olaf Scholz, won the September elections and is in the process of putting together a three-way coalition that has dumped Merkel’s own conservatives out of power. Merkel made the unprecedented decision to invite Scholz along to her most important meetings, introducing him as the next likely leader of Europe’s biggest economy.
“This has been an opportunity to appear together in bilateral talks and to make clear that there’s a high probability that Scholz will be the next chancellor of Germany,” Merkel told reporters on Sunday at the end of the summit.
Scholz, standing next to Merkel at the briefing, stressed he would carry on her legacy. In fact, it’s what won him the hearts of German voters. In the end, he was the one who was able to convince them the most that he was a continuity candidate. At the G-20, their choreography was on point. Whenever Merkel spoke on Sunday, Scholz nodded approvingly, and vice versa.
Such public discipline is unusual, especially between rivals. Merkel governed in a grand coalition with the main opposition but in truth, the two parties are ideologically different.
Scholz will be tugged in different directions in his own coalition by the Greens wanting a stronger state and more spending and the Free Democrats advocating lower taxes for businesses and a more hawkish fiscal policy.
That is a needle that Scholz will have to thread, and it won’t be easy. Beyond the facade of unity, it was clear there were some cracks in how the outgoing chancellor saw things vis a vis her successor. While they both agreed on climate, they don’t see eye to eye on how to battle the pandemic.
Merkel stressed that she’s worried about how infections are on the rise again in Germany and how it might become necessary to take measures against the spread of the virus. Scholz, under pressure from the pro-business FDP, has already indicated there won’t be another lockdown under his leadership.
All this to say that the man who served under Merkel, and observed her style and her knack for compromise up close, will find following in her footsteps easier said than done.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.