Climate disasters and the crisis in Afghanistan will further heat up the already confused elections to succeed Angela Merkel, who led Germany for 16 years.
Less than a month before the election, an increase in voting intentions places three parties in a technical equality: the Christian-conservatives of the Union (CDU-CSU), the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens.
What is at stake are the energy and industrial policies of the main European power, whose GDP in 2020 is close to 4 trillion US dollars (21 trillion R $, at the current exchange rate), the fifth largest economy world, according to calculations by the World Bank which put purchasing power into perspective to allow comparisons (PPP).
The “election with the biggest global consequence this year”, in the words of the president of the political risk consultancy Eurasia, Ian Bremmer, also sets geopolitical orientations, a subject on which the columnist of Folha is one of the main analysts.
Germany has a preponderant weight, alongside France, in European decisions on defense strategies and relations with Russia and China – more relevant at a time when American military and political support is no longer liquid and certain.
“The rapid build-up of serious crises – Covid, UN and irreversible warning on climate change in Afghanistan – further underscores the importance of the leadership qualities of candidates in this election,” said Ursula Münch, director of the Tutzing Academy of Political Education.
Election polls reflected this after floods that killed at least 177 people in the west of the country in July.
In theory, this would be an electoral opportunity for the Greens, the most identified with environmental protection, but also for the Union: conservative candidate for the post of Prime Minister, Armin Laschet, 60, governs the North Rhine- Westphalia, the German state most affected by the floods.
It would be the perfect opportunity to show leadership, but Laschet “made every mistake imaginable,” said Christian Odendahl, chief economist at the Center for European Reform.
“He ignored flood warnings and traveled south to campaign. He didn’t realize the gravity of the situation required a state task force and changed his mind three times in 24 hours on whether to change climate policy, ”says Odendahl in an analysis for the center study.
To top it off, he was filmed laughing during a ceremony in honor of the victims of the tragedy, a video posted on the internet.
The sum of errors caused the Union to fall from 29% of voting intentions to 23% in the polls average, a fall which did not favor the Greens – whose strategy was to tone down to avoid accusations of opportunism-, but the Social Democrats of the SPD.
Stagnating at nearly 15% of electorate preference for over a year, the center-left party has jumped in a few weeks to 22% – the margin of error is between 2 and 2.5 percentage points at roughly -, projecting its candidate, the current Minister of Finance Olaf. Scholz, 62 years old.
Former mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018 and minister since, he was already exploring the experience in his campaign motto “Scholz packt das an” (something like “Scholz does it”) and “seems to be doing everything right right now,” , he specifies, the political scientist Ursula Münch.
“He gave the impression of being a wise listener and set up an aid program. This greatly enhanced his image as a crisis manager, ”explains the professor.
If the Germans were to choose their prime minister directly, Scholz’s current advantage would be significant: 30% of voters prefer the minister, double the 15% of Annalena Baerbock, 40, a candidate for the Greens, who is technically a draw with Laschet (12%).
But this is not how elections lead to the choice of prime minister (a post which in Germany is called chancellor). The head of government is elected by the Bundestag (lower house, equivalent to the Chamber of Deputies) and must bring together more than half of the elected deputies.
This indirect way of choosing the prime minister counteracts the tendency to lack party attachment and makes the most important filter in Germany “affinity with programs or their rejection,” says Münch.
These positions will become more and more evident in the home stretch of the ballot, scheduled for September 26: by then, four debates with the main candidates will be broadcast on television, including one this Sunday (29).
The most important sticking point is the fight against climate change, not because of its necessity – advocated by all German parties except the far-right AfD – but because of the way and how the speed with which energy and industrial policies will need to be revised.
“This is about the dispute over the force with which climate policy should intervene in lifestyles and the economy,” says Münch. This is why the priority given to the environment, evident in opinion polls (in the original), does not translate directly into votes for the Greens, a party that has not completely gotten rid of the radical image of the past, when he wanted to ban short-distance flights and decree a “weekly meat-free day”.
The Greens have matured their rhetoric and doubled their support in the electorate since the last election, which saw them launch for the first time a candidate for prime minister.
But advocating for a faster reduction in carbon dioxide emissions is opening its flank to attacks from rivals, who, in blunt speeches and apocryphal campaigns, claim that a Green government will bring unemployment and starvation.
The Green Party does not deny that the change has costs, but has proposed, in response to criticism, a tax reform to “redistribute them”.
Besides the climate, the electoral campaign risks being impacted by the political collapse in Afghanistan. Over the past week, more than 5,000 Afghans, families and employees of the German government and humanitarian organizations have arrived in the country, but hundreds of Germans and some 5,000 other Afghans have not yet left the country. .
Part of the recent decline in the Union’s polls is due to statements by its candidate for prime minister about the advancement of the Taliban, said Forsa polling institute chairman Manfred Güllner.
Laschet said that it was necessary to avoid “situations like that of 2015”, rejecting the policy adopted by Merkel and supported by him at the time.
“Armin Laschet’s image is increasingly disastrous. In all important matters, he gives the impression of not having clear ideas, of contradicting himself, ”Güllner told French newspaper Le Monde.
There is also a risk that the far right will resuscitate fear of a supposed new wave of refugees like that of 2015/2016.
The situation in 2021 is very different from six years ago and this question is cited as a priority by 10% of voters, but “it is important to be aware of its symbolic effects and its use in misleading narratives”, wrote German analysts Tobias Heidland. , professor of economics at the University of Kiel, and Jasper Tjaden, professor of applied social research at the University of Potsdam, on the political site Politico.
MEET THE CANDIDATES
Party: Social Democrats (SPD)
Current position: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance
Career: Lawyer, former mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018 and member of the Merkel government since then
It is the most experienced at the national level
Quickly put together a financial rescue plan for flood victims
Her profile is seen as close to that of Merkel, which could attract supporters of the prime minister.
Strong loyalty of supporters: 80% would mark minister’s name on ballot if they could, poll finds
Party: Christian Democratic Union (CDU)
Current position: Governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, the largest German state
Career: Law graduate, worked as a journalist until the early years of his political career; he was German and European MP and Secretary for Generations, Family, Women and Integration and Federal Affairs, Europe and Media in North Rhine-Westphalia, the state he now rules
Has administrative experience
He leads the party of popular Prime Minister Angela Merkel and is the closest candidate to conservative voters
Won a tough internal election to become the Union candidate
He is met with resistance from his supporters: only 38% of CDU supporters say they would choose him if the prime minister was directly elected, according to a poll.
Your image was scratched after the July floods
Government program criticized for being vague
Age: 40 years old
Current position: party co-chair
Career: Graduated in political science and public law, she began her political life as an advisor to the European Parliament in 2005; Member since 2013 and co-chairman of the German Green Party since 2018)
is the only woman in the conflict
He is seen as dynamic and determined
Represents a change after decades of Union and SPD governments
The government platform is seen as more concrete
Beat the record of support for the election of the party’s co-chair, with 97.1% of the vote
no management experience
She was accused of plagiarism and inflating her resume, which resulted in the rejection of her name. Among Green supporters, 57% say they would vote for her as prime minister, according to a poll.
Opponents say Greens’ environmental policy will increase cost of living