Recent polls show the race for the federal election on September 26 are heating up as current Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party loses popularity for the first time in 15 years.
As Germany prepares to go to the polls to elect members to the 20th Bundestag, the country’s parliament, the potential successor for current Chancellor Angela Merkel is still unclear.
Lengthy negotiations to form a coalition might be the likeliest scenario for Europe’s leading economy as no single party will predicted to be able to form a government, according to polls.
Opinion polls suggest that neither candidate has convinced the 62 million voters and there are still several combinations to form a coalition and elect a new chancellor.
Under the German electoral system, the chancellor is not directly elected by voters, but via the federal parliament. Elections will take place on September 26.
Here are the leading candidates to lead Germany after 16 years of Angela Merkel, an era in its own right.
Armin Laschet from CDU/CSU
Armin Laschet, who has been serving as minister-president of North Rhine-Westphalia since 2017, was elected as the leader of the Christian Democratic Union on January 16 this year.
He portrays himself as the natural successor of Merkel as he shares the outgoing chancellor’s centrist and pro-European policies.
The 60-year-old entered politics in North Rhine-Westphalia as a member of the state government.
Although he had a difference of opinion with Merkel on the decision to allow fleeing Syrians and Afghans to enter the country, he is famous for his liberal views and strong relations with the migrant and refugee community which earned him the nickname “Turkish Armin.”
His sympathy for immigration and the Greens gave him the tag “the nice Mr Laschet."
Laschet grew up and lives in Aachen, the westernmost city of Germany, and worked as a journalist after studying law.
The CDU candidate is also famous for being gaffe-prone, however, he is famous for his canny ability to survive despite his gaffes.
He laughed on a visit to a flood-stricken town of Erftstadt in July, while the German president was delivering a speech, a gaffe that hit his ratings two months before a federal election. He later apologised for it.
Recently, Laschet described the fall of Kabul to Taliban and western troops’ withdrawal as “the biggest debacle that NATO has suffered since its founding.”
Olaf Scholz from SPD
Olaf Scholz, who served as Minister of Finance and Vice-Chancellor of Germany under Merkel since 2018, is running under the banner of the Social Democratic Party(SPD).
Scholz was born in the northwestern city of Osnabruck, Scholz grew up in Hamburg's Rahlstedt district and studied law at the University of Hamburg. Then he worked as a lawyer specialising in labour and employment law.
He was a member of the Bundestag from 1998 to 2011. He joined the first Merkel government in 2007 as minister of Labour and Social Affairs. Scholz returned to lead the SPD in Hamburg after his party left government in 2009. Then he was elected as First Mayor of Hamburg in 2011 and continued in his job until 2018 when his party became a coalition partner under Merkel.
According to a poll carried out by INSA in early August, Olaf Scholz came out on top with 27 percent, while Laschet received 14 percent and the Green’s Annalena Baerbock 13 percent — where people were asked who would be their preferred choice. If the chancellor was elected directly by voters he’d have a good shot at the position.
SPD have pulled ahead of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives for the first time in 15 years, according to an opinion poll published on Tuesday.
The SPD was up 2 percentage points compared to a week back on 23 percent, while the CDU/CSU slipped a point to 22 percent and the Greens are down a point at 18 percent, according to the Forsa poll for RTL/NTV.
Forsa said this was the first time that the SPD had been ahead of the CDU/CSU since October 2006, with the latest rating for Merkel's party at its lowest level since the polling institute was set up in 1984.
Scholz, 63, is nicknamed the "Scholzomat" due to his monotone speeches.
He has long supported social housing policies and raising the minimum wage which are the key themes of his current campaign.
After years of a budget surplus, the German economy has billions of euros of debt to cope with after the pandemic. "All that is expensive, but to do nothing would have been even more costly," he said.
Annalena Baerbock from the Greens
Annalena Charlotte Alma Baerbock, 40, was born in Lower Saxony in west Germany.
From 2000 to 2004, Baerbock studied political science and public law at the University of Hamburg. During her studies, she worked as a journalist for the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung from 2000 to 2003.
In 2005, she completed a master degree in Public International Law from the London School of Economics (LSE).
From 2008 to 2009, Baerbock served as an adviser on foreign and security policies for the parliamentary group of the Alliance 90/The Greens in the Bundestag.
She became spokesperson of the Green Party’s working group on European affairs from 2008 to 2013. Baerbock has served as co-leader of the Alliance 90/The Greens alongside Robert Habeck since 2018 and now she is a candidate to succeed Merkel for the Greens.
She says her party is ready to govern the country by standing for a fresh start in Germany.
"There's a lot at stake with these elections! Our future is at stake, and the future doesn't happen on its own, it must be built!" Baerbock said.
The Green party consistently stays in third place in the recent polls which make Baerbock one of the strong candidates for the election.