by Thorsten Koch
The SPD’s recently nominated candidate for Chancellor, Scholz, would like to see the SPD as the strongest force in a future Federal Government, despite low poll numbers. The upcoming coalition will be led by the SPD, said Scholz, whose candidacy, proposed by the SPD chairpersons and confirmed by the presidium and board of the SPD, does not have to be confirmed by a party congress. Scholz, the Federal Finance Minister and a former Hamburg mayor, emphasized that he was confident that the SPD could achieve more than 20 percent of the vote. He named respect, as well as a job security program and a strong Europe as the focus of his election campaign.
Contrary to Scholz’s assurances, the SPD party leadership have not ruled out the possibility of the SPD entering into a coalition with the Greens. The latter are strong in opinion polls. The SPD is particularly open to form a coalition with the Left Party. They want a progressive alliance, stressing that those who “ensured our survival” during the Corona crisis should be able to “live on their income”. In addition, the SPD wants a property tax for people who have a high level of wealth. Walter-Borjans said that social cohesion was not possible within a Grand Coalition.
A “renewal” of the SPD?
A coalition with the Left Party had been openly favored in recent months within the SPD. The SPD chairman, Walter-Borjans, said that the reason for Scholz’s nomination was that the now-candidate enjoyed a high reputation in the SPD, but indicated that his popularity among the population played a more prominent role. SPD chairwoman Esken admitted that the nomination of Scholz, who leans more to the middle class, was an unusual turn after party-left Mützenich had brought himself into play as a candidate for Chancellor. According to commentators, there have been doubts on the left of the SPD about Scholz’s suitability, despite his role as Vice Chancellor and Minister of Finance during the Corona pandemic. Commentators said that Scholz was a rather left-wing SPD politician who would support a shift sideways. Esken asserted that the SPD was not only intended to unite and strengthen the party, but to renew it.
The chairman of the Left Party, Riexinger, said he still had doubts that Scholz was marching in the same direction as the SPD dual leadership. However, he was pleased that the SPD leadership had spoken out on the abolition of the Hartz IV system and in favor of taxation of the rich: “These are all things that are going in the right direction.” The left-wing parliamentary group leader in the Bundestag, Bartsch, emphatically said that the goal must be a majority on the left of the Union, “with Olaf Scholz”. This, however, must also be reflected in the future coalition program. Left chairwoman Kipping spoke out in favor of a coalition with the SPD. Scholz should reorient the SPD’s political positions. The SPD will not be presented with any presents in terms of content, Kipping said, mentioning “overcoming social divisions, climate protection and disarmament”. She also called for a “socio-ecological change in policy”. The planned increase in Hartz IV rates, for example, is completely inadequate, she said. The introduction of an actual basic pension and the abolition of private health insurance are of importance, she added.
Criticism from other parties
The Greens stressed that it was too early to start the election campaign. Greens spokesman Habeck said that the Coronavirus and climate issues are currently dominant alongside the Wirecard scandal and the EU. Nevertheless, Scholz’s nomination is not surprising, according to the Green party’s leader. According to FDP chairman Lindner, it is puzzling why the SPD made a coalition offer to the Left Party and were open to Habeck’s chancellorship, but suddenly named a candidate for Chancellor who was, according to Lindner, outside the left-wing camp.
The CSU chairman and Bavarian Prime Minister Söder said the premature election campaign was devastating during the ongoing corona pandemic, while the CDU European politician Röttgen described Scholz’s nomination as implausible because Scholz did not fit his party. The head of the Junge Union, Kuban, accused the SPD of disorientation. CSU General Secretary Blume said: “Instead of talking about the successes of the grand coalition, the SPD is now officially on a tight left-wing course for the next Federal Election.” And he justified: “With its left-wing dreams in the midst of a global recession, the SPD proves why it only knows the way down in surveys.” You don’t need a “socialist moth box” which would be “poison for millions of jobs”. In surveys, the CDU is currently at 38 percent, the Greens at 18 and the SPD at only 15 percent. Nevertheless, after Chancellor Angela Merkel and Health Minister Spahn, who both belong to the CDU, Scholz is one of the most popular politicians in Germany – despite a rather cold personality.
Scholz struck internally despite swinging speeches
Scholz, who likes to use strong catchwords, is criticized for the accounting scandal at the payment service provider Wirecard. The chairman of the Union parties in the Bundestag finance committee, Michelbach, warned Scholz against actionism during the restructuring of the Bafin financial supervisory authority: “If Scholz is eager to go fast with changes in supervision, this is nothing more than a flight forward to to distract from failure. ” Michelbach demanded unreserved clarification. Among other things, the Bafin lacks a powerful task force, and a clear separation between auditing and advice is required, according to Michelbach.
Scholz initially tried to become party chairman instead of the duo Walter-Borjans and Esken, but had failed at that time. He also seems to be controversial within his party. The two chairmen and former political opponents of Scholz emphasized solidarity in a written letter to SPD members: “We ask for trust in our path. We have decided to go this path together.” Germany needs a Federal Chancellor “who is determined and experienced,” and who embodies justice. SPD Group leader in the Bundestag, Mützenich, also made a U-turn, praising Scholz. Walter-Borjans and Esken had previously warned how important unity was for the SPD. It may now be a pan to the left. A spokeswoman for the SPD left emphasized: “The recipe of the past few years to fish in the milieu of conservative and liberal voters” will not work.
Scholz recently emphasized his loyalty to the NATO alliance. But the party program of the party Die Linke says: “We demand the dissolution of NATO and its replacement by a collective security system with Russia participating.” Kipping emphasized that NATO was “not an alliance of values”. On the other hand, the foreign policy spokesman for the Left Party does not reject the Bundeswehr missions abroad, at least not across the board. The SPD has also criticized the fact that the German government should pay 2 percent of the gross domestic product for the transatlantic defense alliance, but a NATO exit under a future leadership of the SPD is currently unlikely. The chairman of the left parliamentary group, Mohamed Ali, sees Scholz’s nomination as a rejection by the SPD of the left, in an initial comment. She is “very clearly” against the 2-percent NATO armaments goal.
The SPD’s left more pronounced
Meanwhile, the head of the SPD youth organization Jusos, Kühnert, has expressed his support for the new SPD candidate for Chancellor and stressed that the party left should contribute constructively and critically to shaping politics. Kühnert stated the goal of winning majorities on the left of the center. Kühnert wants to remove stumbling blocks for a coalition with the Left Party. Recently, he said, in a coalition agreement between the Left Party and the SPD, his party will not position itself in favor of leaving NATO: “I think that is adventurous and strategically inconsiderate. “
The Thuringian MP Matschie recently criticized Esken and Walter-Borjans’ course to the left with the words that one must “integrate into the middle”. The spokeswoman for the rather conservative Seeheimer Kreis, Möller, called for the integration of all diverse currents within the SPD and those of the different wings, so that the SPD would do justice to its perceived identity as a people’s party. However, a few weeks ago, SPD parliamentary group leader Mützenich put a question mark on arms cooperation with the USA, combining this with harsh criticism of US President Trump. Mützenich, a left-wing SPD strongman with a background in foreign and security policy, had also spoken out in favor of withdrawing nuclear weapons from Germany. Before Scholz’s nomination, he kept his own candidacy for Chancellor open. As it stands, the left forces within the SPD seem to predominate, at the moment.