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Olaf Scholz cements position as frontrunner for chancellor after final TV debate

Olaf Scholz cements position as frontrunner for chancellor after final TV debate

Olaf Scholz cements position as frontrunner for chancellor after final TV debate

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) has again been crowned the winner of Sunday’s TV debate between the candidates for chancellor. In a snap poll, the SPD candidate came out as the clear frontrunner in the eyes of the public. The CDU’s Armin Laschet came in second, but was closely followed by Annalena Baerbock (Greens).

Chancellor candidates go toe-to-toe in final TV debate

On Sunday, German citizens tuned in to watch the final TV debate between Olaf Scholz, Armin Laschet and Annalena Baerbock, ahead of the federal election this Sunday. The debate was intense, with the three candidates discussing particularly significant issues such as social inequality, the climate crisis and domestic security.

The SPD and Green party candidates often found themselves united on certain issues, particularly when talking about poverty. Both called for a minimum wage of 12 euros an hour, something that was rejected by Laschet, who suggested that employers and trade unions should agree on a fair salary for employees between themselves. And, in what is just one example of how intense and sometimes frosty the debate got, Baerbock accused her fellow candidates of presiding over a government that has only seen “the divide between rich and poor only get wider."

When discussing the climate crisis, Scholz and Laschet were keen to present their parties, and themselves, as the best at dealing with environmental issues. Scholz asserted himself as the only candidate able to make German industry climate neutral by 2045, whilst Laschet claimed that the CDU had long been tackling the issue of climate change and had been doing so since Helmut Kohl headed the government. Baerbock, on the other hand, had to field questions relating to her party’s opposition to practices that are detrimental to the climate, such as flying and the meat industry. "Life under a Green government sounds a little uncomfortable, doesn't it?" one moderator asked during the debate.

When the debate turned to the topic of domestic security, Laschet took swipes at both his rivals’ parties, arguing that the SPD and the Greens had fought against the deportation of individuals considered dangerous by Germany’s security forces in his state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Germans prefer Scholz over rival candidates

Shortly after the debate, a Forsa poll revealed that 42 percent of viewers thought that Scholz had won the debate - as he did last time - with Laschet coming in second (27 percent), followed closely by Baerbock (25 percent). These scores correspond with the latest INSA national opinion poll, which has the SPD leading with 26 percent, closely followed by the CDU (21 percent) and the Greens bringing up the rear with 15 percent.

Scholz took a more reserved stance in this debate, sticking to the image that his more level-headed approach to governance makes him the rightful successor to Angela Merkel. During the debate, Scholz remained calm while the other two candidates traded barbs, a tactic that seems to have paid off.

Despite the SPD polling around five points higher than the CDU, the outcome of the election as we head into the final week is still far from certain, given the SPD’s fragile lead. Baerbock’s relative inexperience has been blamed for her party’s drop in the polls, despite a strong start in the election campaign.

Coalition still on the cards

At the end of the debate, both the Greens and SPD frontrunners asserted that it would be good for the CDU to enter the opposition after four years of power. Scholz even said that he believed most voters wanted the next German government to be made up of the SPD and the Greens. For her part, Baerbock stated her aversion to a so-called “Jamaica coalition”, a coalition between her Green party, the CDU / CSU and the pro-business FDP.

Laschet attacked the SPD for allegedly considering an alliance with Die Linke, so that they might form a three-way majority alongside the Greens. “For my part, I would rule out any coalition with extremists,” he said. None of the candidates specifically revealed which coalition partners they would prefer, yet all agreed that they would not explore coalition options with the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD).

William Nehra

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William Nehra

William studied a masters in Classics at the University of Amsterdam. He is a big fan of Ancient History and football, particularly his beloved Watford FC.

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