BERLIN (AA) – Three candidates are vying to succeed Angela Merkel as Germany’s chancellor in national elections slated for Sept. 26.
The Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) candidate, Olaf Scholz, is leading in the opinion polls, while conservative leader Armin Laschet is still hopeful that Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) will win the elections. The Greens’ candidate Annalena Baerbock is placed third in the surveys.
According to a new poll by Forsa, Olaf Scholz’s SPD is predicted to receive 25% of the vote, four points ahead of the Christian Democrats at 21%. The poll put support for the environmentalist Greens at 17%.
With the parliamentary elections less than two weeks away, 40% of the voters were still undecided, according to a survey by the Allensbach Research Institute.
In Germany, voters do not directly elect the chancellor but vote for a political party to elect the new parliament. The winning party’s top candidate will become the chancellor if he or she manages to form a government, and is approved by the parliament.
Recent polls show that none of the parties will get enough votes to govern alone, and the winning party’s chancellor candidate will likely face tough negotiations with other parties to form a coalition government.
Here’s a closer look at Germany’s three chancellor candidates, their election pledges, and chances to win the elections:
- Armin Laschet
Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc CDU/CSU picked Armin Laschet as a chancellor candidate five months ago, after weeks of tense discussions.
Recent polls show his popularity ratings are declining, but he’s still hopeful that Christian Democrats will win the elections, and he will be the one to lead the new coalition government.
Laschet was elected the leader of the center-right CDU earlier this year, and he has been the premier of Germany's most populous state North Rhine-Westphalia since 2017.
The 60-year-old experienced politician is known for his moderate and liberal views and is considered a follower of Merkel's pragmatic and centrist line.
During his campaign, Laschet called on the citizens to vote for the Christian Democrats to ensure that the country will be governed by a “reliable” and “stable” government in the next four years.
He warned the voters that a win by Social Democrats would bring the prospect of a left-wing coalition government, including the far-left Die Linke, which is critical of the EU and against Germany’s membership in NATO.
Laschet has good ties with Germany’s Turkish community and other immigrant groups in the country, as he served as the integration minister of North Rhine-Westphalia in 2005-2010.
Laschet was a federal lawmaker in 1994-1998 and served as a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2005.
- Olaf Scholz
The Social Democrats’ chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz is Germany’s most popular politician after Angela Merkel.
According to a recent poll by public broadcaster ZDF, 68% of Germans consider Scholz a more suitable candidate, well ahead of the other two candidates.
His party SPD is leading Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc in most recent surveys, but it is still far from winning a governing majority. Social Democrats will need coalition partners even if they win the elections.
The 62-year-old politician is seen as the most competent chancellor candidate by the majority of the voters. He is the vice-chancellor and finance minister in the current coalition government of the SPD and Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
During his campaign, Scholz said if Social Democrats win the elections, they will make every effort for better wages, stable pensions, and affordable housing. He promised to raise the national minimum wage to €12 ($14.2) per hour.
Scholz is an experienced politician and has been active in politics since the 1980s. He was the deputy leader of SPD’s youth organization in 1982-1988 and served as the minister of labor and social affairs in 2007-2009. Scholz was the mayor of Hamburg between 2011 and 2018.
- Annalena Baerbock
The environmentalist Greens’ candidate Annalena Baerbock is the only woman running for chancellor’s slot in this election, and also the youngest among the candidates.
The 40-year-old politician has been considered “the most sympathetic” candidate by the voters, according to recent surveys. But she lacks experience and never held a position in the government.
She has been a lawmaker in the national parliament, Bundestag, since 2013 and was elected the co-leader of the Greens in 2018.
Baerbock’s popularity ratings climbed in recent months, after she revealed an ambitious plan to tackle climate change, and made bold pledges on education and family policies.
She repeatedly criticized the other two chancellor candidates for following the status quo and argued that Germany needs a “fresh start” with a new government led by the Greens.
Baerbock has been very popular among young voters – 52% of the voters aged 18-24 find Baerbock more convincing than the other two candidates, according to a recent survey by public broadcaster ZDF.
Recent polls suggest that the Greens may get up to 19% of the vote, more than double the party received in the previous elections in 2017. The party enjoys growing support from young people and voters concerned about climate change and other environmental issues.