The deadly floods that hit southwestern Germany suddenly entered the electoral campaign (for the federal elections on September 26), disrupting its pace, but also its imagery. Thursday, we thus discovered Armin Laschet, head of the list of the conservatives (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) and boss of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia, speaking on the climate in a fire station, in boots of rubber.

Likewise, Olaf Scholz, his Social Democratic counterpart (SPD) and Minister of Finance, was photographed discovering the extent of the damage in the municipality of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler with, clinging to his arm, like two old friends in solidarity in distress, his comrade Malu Dreyer, president of the Rhineland-Palatinate region.

Even if, as rightly formulated the co-president of the ecologists (Alliance 90-the Greens), Robert Habeck, the current moment is “the hour of the rescuers and not the hour of the politicians”, two questions are essential to all . To what extent will this “collision” between a natural disaster and the electoral campaign bring the climate issue back to the center of public debate? And what impact could that have on the outcome of the election, or even on future German policy?

Among the conservatives, we first take the opportunity to repeat the obvious to a sometimes skeptical electorate, especially on the right wing. With this disaster, “any sane person should understand that meteorological vagaries of this density and gravity are not a normal phenomenon in our regions, but the consequences of man-made global warming”, declared this Friday morning the Federal Minister of the Interior, the conservative Horst Seehofer.

“Minimum program”

The day before, Armin Laschet wanted to be lucid and voluntary in assuring that “we will face such events again and again. This means that we have to speed up climate protection measures ”. Finally, for his part, Olaf Scholz promised to negotiate a package of financial aid from next week: “We must also do everything to stop global warming,” he also added.

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“Appearing on the pitch is good. But not sure that this changes the electoral game for the conservatives and the social democrats. On the contrary, the resurgence of global warming can be a problem, because all polls show that Merkel’s “GroKo” [grande coalition] did not really convince that she had the matter under control. This while the climate issue is, after the fight against the pandemic, one of the main concerns of the Germans ”, analyzes the Berlin political scientist Gero Neugebauer.

Since March 2020, the federal government has obviously focused on fighting COVID-19 and saving its economy. “On the climate front, on the other hand, the conservative union CDU-CSU and the SPD have limited themselves to a minimum program. So much so that in June, in a historic decision, the Constitutional Court revoked their bill on climate protection, ”continues the academic. The judges have indeed forced the government to tighten the climate objectives of a policy that is too unambitious and harmful for future generations. Never seen.

Of course, the parties in power have not forgotten to include a climate chapter in their electoral programs. But beautiful campaign promises abound. On the conservative ecological program, the opinion of the president of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Marcel Fratzscher, falls like a cleaver: “This program simply cannot be funded. “

Any sane person should understand that weather vagaries of this density and severity are not a normal occurrence in our regions, but consequences of global warming.

“Defensive attitude”

On the rhetorical level, Armin Laschet and Olaf Scholz are also not in the lace. “Schematically, they explain that being more realistic and closer to the economy, or workers, they are better able to implement an ecological policy, laughs Gero Neugebauer. In reality, these two parties do not have the skills and the interest, and they know it. So in reality, their attitude is defensive. It is above all intended to limit the flight of their voters to the environmentalist party. “

Under these conditions, the resurgence of the climate issue could not suit the conservatives and the social democrats, but only if the Greens manage to relaunch a debate on this theme, and this, by pushing the established parties to their limits. “Let’s face it all the same, the floods are not going to lead people to read more than before the programs”, admits Gero Neugebauer.

On the conservative side, we hope, on the contrary, to build on oblivion, that is to say on the desire of the Germans to escape and vacation after a trying year of pandemic, and perhaps on a hypothetical “Gerhard Schröder effect. “. Across the Rhine, a good part of the Germans remembers it: left behind by Edmund Stoiber during the election campaign of 2002, Chancellor Schröder threw himself body and soul into the fight against the floods of the Oder. And in a few weeks, he had managed to catch up, putting his conservative competitor on the pole, more curvy and a man of records than a carrier of sandbags close to the concerns of the people.

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