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Merkel`s last year as Chancellor is beginning – Parliament Resumes: Early Federal Election Campaign Kick-off in Germany

Summary: Olaf Scholz will be the Social Democrat’s top candidate. Thus, the campaigning period for the federal election in 2021 has started. The next twelve months of campaigning will be of historic significance for German politics but also the European Union. The upcoming election will designate a potential successor of Angela Merkel, Germany’s longest ever serving chancellor. The transformation of the energy and mobility sector as well as the green and sustainable recovery from the Covid-19 crisis will be topics of high relevance. These topics combined with current electoral dynamics will put the Green Party in a central spot regarding the formation of a future government. The government has almost completed its major legislative projects. Parties will now concentrate on exploring the political arena with positions that may eventually result in election agendas and roughly define a possible coalition agreement of the next government.

Social Democrats Embark on the Race for Chancellorship

The sun was beaming more or less uninterruptedly for the last two months while the hot and stuffy corridors in German political institutions were a lot quieter than normal. This is now over. The summer break in political Berlin ends with the parliament’s session on Monday, 7th September. The final year of the Merkel government has arrived.

There was a bang in the otherwise quiet parliamentary recess when the Social Democrats announced on the 10th of August: Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz will run for the office of Federal Chancellor. Thereby, the German Social Democrats plunged headlong into the election campaign.

The timing of the announcement was unexpected. Competitors were taken by surprise. Scholz will have to endure the spotlight for more than a year. The dual role of Scholz is remarkable. His work in the current grand coalition of SPD and CDU/CSU still has to prove its worth in a manifest global crisis. Yet, Olaf Scholz reiterated his claim to the future government on more than one occasion.

Chancellor Merkel: An Era About to End

In 2018, it became known that Angela Merkel would not run for another term in office. In the face of persistent rumours, Merkel once again ruled out publicly to run for the 5th time in June.

Angela Merkel, Germany’s longest-serving chancellor, was head of government for four electoral cycles shaping policy like no other politician in reunited Germany. Long before elected chancellor, Angela Merkel served as Federal Minister and shaped the face of the CDU as Secretary-General and Chairwoman of the party. With the resigning Angela Merkel, an anchor of stability and a point of orientation for German politics is being untied, that much is certain.

Chancellor Merkel will leave a legacy that is held in high esteem by large portions of the population. During her time in office Merkel has been leading Germany to its truly consolidated position within the European Union. Accordingly, the next federal election will be of outstanding significance for German politics as it could be one of these rare cornerstones for a new political era. From a European perspective, Angela Merkel’s exit will leave an element of uncertainty.

Greens Likely to Assume Pivotal Role in Future Government

The left-wing SPD party leadership selected a centrist figure hoping to benefit from Scholz’s voice of experience and not deviate too much from the leadership profile of the Merkel era. This move pressured the conservative coalition partner. The CDU/CSU does not aim to nominate its number one candidate until December 2020. The party indeed still struggles to do justice to Merkel’s legacy.

The Greens, however, as the main opponent of the CDU/CSU are very much aware of their central role in the future formation of the government. Given current dynamics, it seems very unlikely that there will be a government without the participation of the Greens.

If the Liberals do not shy away from taking responsibility in government at the last minute, as they did after the last election, they could possibly determine the future chancellor depending on the majority situation.

Consequentially, during the next year of campaigning competitors must make it credible that they have a progressive vision worthy of a new era. Covid-19 crisis management and its economic consequences accompanied by the transformation of the energy and mobility sector will dominate the campaigning period. To be precise, a green and sustainable recovery of the economy and the public sector will be at the core of discussions. This again highlights the paramount role the Greens will assume in forming a government.

Nothing is Set in Stone: Now is the Time to Represent Interests

Extensive legislative projects of the government are almost completed for this electoral period. Berlin is back from its summer slump, circles of dialogue are revived and new common ground is sought between the parties. Efforts by diverse actors are now centered on paving the way for a prospective government. The election agendas drawn up in the next months will reveal which coalitions might be possible in principle. Ultimately, some of the positions taken will merge into a coalition agreement.

An interesting time lies ahead, an exciting election campaign with ambitious goals to come with, offering cores of new opportunities to engage in the political debate and shape the legislative process. Now it is time to advance your interests for the next legislative period in Germany.

Authors: Thomas Eißler and Markus Weidling

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