The German triumph of the social democrat Scholz, threatened by the volatility of the polls

If you like demographic earthquakes, Germany it is your country. There is little praise coming from a democracy like the Spanish that, in five years, has passed a sufficient majority of the PP to the leadership of We can and Citizens in the surveys to the partial or total collapse of the latter to raise the PSOE to the power. It seems that, shortly, PP and Vox they will be able to form a more or less solid government and thus close the circle. All this, I insist, in five years.

Because the Germans do everything faster and more efficiently, their earthquakes last not five years but five months. In April, without going any further, everything pointed to an environmental government. The Verdes they were back. The party led by Annalena Baerbock led the polls with an average of more than three points of advantage over the CDU / CSU. The Socialists, in their descending line of the last fifteen years, were in a very distant third place, more than twelve points (15.7%) of their peers in government during a good part of the era Schroeder, the last chancellor of the SPD.

The green emergency made sense in a country where natural disasters are rife and garner media attention. Germany has always been at the forefront of environmentalism, since the 1960s and 1970s, when the movement was in its infancy in the rest of the world. However, The Verdes not only have they never won a federal election, but they have not even exceeded 10% of the popular vote. Suddenly, the polls gave him a 28,1%, three times more than what was achieved in 2017. A formidable success.

The rise and fall of Laschet

Now, the success, or its perception, was short-lived. The CDU, who has ruled in Germany For fifty of the last seventy years, he seemed to find a solid candidate in Armin Laschet. Already president of the Democracy ChristianLaschet was chosen as the head of the list in April and the polls greeted him with enthusiasm. Suddenly, the evicted CDU was back on track: in May, he was already the highest-rated candidate in the polls. In June, it did nothing more than consolidate its advantage… and in July, it reached its peak of popularity: 31.5% on average, more than ten points over Los Verdes and fifteen points over the Socialists, who had not finished starting.

The Germany ecologist, Germany concerned about climate change, had given way to the Germany conservative, the Germany of “better leave everything as it is”, the continuist. Endorsed by Angela Merkel and his sixteen years in power, Laschet made the face of chancellor in the face of elections that he could only lose: in his favor was inertia and tradition, a mixture that is rarely twisted … but that Laschet was twisted. The week of July 15, a series of torrential rains caused chaos in Europe central and especially in certain areas of the Rhineland.

Election posters in Germany.

Election posters in Germany.


The balance was devastating: only in Germany 184 people died and entire towns were flooded by wild floods. The entire country showed its shock, starting with Merkel herself, followed by the president Steinmeier -Member, by the way, of the SPD- and all federal and regional authorities. All except one: Armin Laschet. Of course, before the cameras, Laschet tore his clothes, promised aid and mourned deaths. He did not count on a video showing him laughing out loud in the middle of the President of the Republic’s condolence speech. Laughter that elections can cost you.

Baerbock and the plagiarism accusations

This was an exercise in clumsiness and demagoguery combined. The public figure must know that among his responsibilities is that of a constant good image. Distractions are not allowed. Now, whatever the circumstances that led to Laschet’s détente at the time, obviously could have nothing to do with the tragedy itself. In few places does he laugh as much as at funerals, for the most absurd reasons. The opposition was slaughtered: Laschet laughs at the victims, Laschet finds the dead a joke … and so on.

It worked. In the next month and a half, the CDU / CSU lost ten points in the polls. A little more than the six and a half he had earned in the previous two months. The logical thing would be to think that the great beneficiaries would be Los Verdes de Baerbock. After all, all this was caused by a natural tragedy and the ghost of the change climate he flew over all the speeches. However, Baerbock had also fallen from grace: although his party was still in excellent numbers (hovering around 15% in the polls), the accusation from plagiarism which she had to face during these months was chasing her everywhere.

On June 21, the candidate had published a book called Now. How we renew our country, that a few days later it was discovered that it was filled with data and analysis previously published in different reports without the corresponding citation or reference. The reaction of Baerbock and Los Verdes was the usual: deny everything and appeal to the coincidence. After all, comments to data that are public can coincide, right? The German electorate did not think so, always picky about these matters. Baerbock had lost the trust of millions of potential voters and was unable to regain it. Who benefited from all that troubled river? The socialist candidate, Olaf Scholz.

Scholz, the man who was always there

Maybe Olaf Scholz is a stranger in Spain, but certainly not in Germany, where he has been in the front line of politics for more than twenty years. Secretary General of the SPD already in Schroeder’s time, Scholz became one of the visible faces of the different “concentration governments” of Angela Merkel. Banned by certain radical sectors of the left, who see him as a “sold out” to the neoliberalism, a careerist who only understands power, Scholz has been a minister in different Merkel governments and is currently neither more nor less than the vice chancellor, in addition to finance Minister, after a few years serving as mayor in Hamburg.

When on August 20, 2020, the SPD decided to name him a candidate, what he did was prop up the possibility of a new understanding with the CDU in the event that it did not achieve an absolute majority. Scholz never saw himself as Chancellor, much less when The Verdes they began to take off in the polls with such virulence. The feeling was that, a la Tayllerand, he could go from being Merkel’s vice chancellor to Baerbock’s vice chancellor without flinching. His party, which came from the worst results in its history in the 2017 elections (20.51% of the votes), barely exceeded 15% in the polls.

Between the continuity of Laschet and the revolution of Baerbock there seemed to be no room for Scholz … until fate and the clumsiness of others presented him with a unique opportunity. In the midst of anxiety, Scholz presented himself as the government candidate, as the true successor to Merkel. Were not a good part of the policies implemented in the last sixteen years his? Wasn’t his relationship with the Chancellor magnificent? Nostalgia gripped the voter, and suddenly Scholz’s supporters emerged from the stones.

Too short a lead

On June 28, just before the plagiarism allegations against Baerbock and about two weeks before the floods in Rhineland, Scholz and the SPD were around 16% in the polls and it seemed that their only role in these elections would be to choose which partner to support. Less than three months later, barely ten days before the elections, they led the average of polls with 28% voting intention, five points above the CDU and ten points above The Verdes. The omelette had been completely turned upside down in a single summer.

Does that mean that Scholz is going to win the election tomorrow? Not much less. It means that it is the favorite in a setting too fickle. Too many people have changed their minds too much in too little time. That makes the surveys very unreliable. There is not continuity, there are no trends to hold. It’s all a suspicious up and down. Besides, of course, there is the distribution of seats – in that sense, the German electoral system is one of the most proportional in Western democracies – and the negotiation of majorities in the Bundestag.

If Scholz wins, he will have two ways: to remind the CDU the sixteen long years of direct and indirect support for Merkel and demanding compensation … or opting for a clear shift to the left, depending on the results of The Verdes and thus reissuing the agreement Schroeder fisherman 1998. It seems the most likely option, since the ex-communists of the leftIt would be rare for them to support the government of Angela Merkel’s vice chancellor. Laschet has it more complicated: he needs to win the elections and that the red-green majority does not give to form a government. Even then, he would have to rely on the liberals and, perhaps, the AfD, the far-right party that Merkel has denied so much since its founding in 2010 and which can now be key in the country’s governance.

The latest polls speak of a margin that is narrowing again. The survey published this Friday by the television network RTL places the top three candidates in eight spots. Scholz is still ahead (25%), but has Laschet three points, that is, within the margin of error. Will we attend the umpteenth earthquake coinciding with election day? Impossible to rule it out. What seems clear is that every vote and every seat will count in the tightest elections since 2002, curiously the last in which Angela Merkel did not stand as a candidate.

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