For nearly three minutes, he remained planted upright in front of the activists who waved flags and chanted “Olaf! Olaf! Olaf! ” in the great hall of the SPD headquarters in Berlin. Then, with a wave of his hand, he asked them to calm down, before claiming his victory in a monotonous voice. Sunday, September 26, at 7 p.m. sharp, it was without the slightest apparent emotion that Olaf Scholz took note of the SPD’s slight lead over the CDU-CSU, and declared his intention to form the next government.

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Looking at him, however, we said to ourselves that this imperturbable face and this mechanical phrasing, which once earned him the nickname “Scholzomat”, must have been hiding rather mixed feelings. Especially when, at his side, the president of the party, Saskia Esken, told him: “This success is yours! ” From this perfect stranger who was elected against him at the head of the party, in December 2019, these words necessarily had a special flavor.

Because, on Sunday, it is also a personal revenge that Olaf Scholz took, him, the eternal unloved of the SPD, the one adored to manhandle the left wing of the party from 2002 to 2004, when he was general secretary and that he defended like a good little soldier the laws reforming the labor market of his mentor, Gerhard Schröder; the one who, in 2019, was disowned again by the left wing, who this time criticized him for his far too orthodox budgetary policy as finance minister and vice-chancellor of Angela Merkel.

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Unlikely a few months ago, the success of Olaf Scholz is also that of an obstinate who was not discouraged when everything seemed to be going against him. When the SPD appointed him to lead the legislative campaign, in August 2020, even the party leadership doubted the usefulness of presenting a candidate for the chancellery. Stuck at 15% in the polls, the SPD seemed to have no chance of winning. In such a context, what is the point of running for government if it is more or less clear that the voters will send you back to the opposition?

No risk during the campaign

Olaf Scholz has always taken his role seriously. “I will be Chancellor of the Federal Republic”, he hammered, for months, as the curves of the polls remained as still as the features of his face. His advisers, them, repeated that his time would come, but that for that it was necessary to wait for the last weeks of the campaign, when the voters would really realize that Angela Merkel was going to leave power after sixteen years at the head of the government. It was then, they assured, that Olaf Scholz would be seen differently: not only as a managerial and anti-Chaismatic Social Democrat as much as possible, but as the most competent of the candidates in the running, the one with the greatest governmental experience, the one , ultimately, having the most in common with Angela Merkel.

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