Merkel Pours Cold Water on Scholz’s Claim to Be Her Heir
(Bloomberg) -- Angela Merkel took direct aim at efforts by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz to assume her mantle to help topple her conservative bloc in the Sept. 26 election.
Scholz, who has engineered an unlikely poll surge for his Social Democratic party to become the favorite for chancellor, has conducted an unsubtle campaign to project himself as the rightful successor of Merkel’s legacy. But with her Christian Democrat-led block foundering in the polls, she pushed back on Tuesday.
“There’s a huge difference between me and him,” she said, responding to a question about Scholz’s effort, which have been called a “false heir” campaign by her party.
Merkel specifically took issue with Scholz leaving open the possibility of cooperating with the anti-capitalist Left party to secure a majority.
“With me as chancellor, there would never be a coalition with the Left party,” she said. “Whether this view is shared by Olaf Scholz or not remains an open question.”
Germany’s vice chancellor for the past four years, Scholz has unabashedly attached himself to Merkel, who remains Germany’s most popular politician even after 16 years in power. He posed for a photograph with her signature diamond-shaped hand gesture. Another SPD ad claimed that Scholz too could be “Kanzlerin,” the German feminine form of chancellor.
Unlike in past cycles, the election winner will likely need two parties to form a government. While the Greens are a natural partner for the Social Democrats, the third ally is a tough choice.
The pro-business Free Democrats espouse low taxes and tight budgets and could clash with the investment-led agenda of the SPD and the Greens. The FDP has clearly stated that it would prefer to work with the conservatives.
That would leave the Left party, part of which is made up of the successor to the East German communist party. Its never had a role in the federal government, and it wants Germany to exit NATO.
Raising the specter of a leftist alliance is a familiar tactic for Germany’s conservatives, and its been on the rise as the momentum shifts to the SPD. While Scholz hasn’t firmy ruled out cooperating with the Left, he said in a debate on Sunday that the party would need to overall its foreign-policy stance.
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