Candidates representing the two parties that have ruled Germany in a “grand coalition” for 12 of the past 16 years smashed the record the other Sunday night, in a televised election debate which saw the center-center leader left Olaf Scholz declared the winner despite the blows of his conservative rival.
In the second of three televised debates, hosted by the two German public broadcasters, conservative candidate Armin Laschet of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) tried to turn the tide by attacking Finance Minister Scholz of the Social Democratic Party ( SPD) on its record track in the fight against money laundering and corruption.
Ahead of national elections in two weeks, polls predict Laschet’s CDU will collapse to historic levels as the tenure of his four-term Chancellor Angela Merkel comes to an end.
“If my finance minister worked like you, then we would have a serious problem,” said Laschet, who is the prime minister of the Land of Rhine-Westphalia.
The German Federal Ministry of Finance and Justice was raided last week in order to obtain information relevant to an investigation into the government’s anti-money laundering agency, but not to probe Scholz’s ministry itself. same.
Scholz accused his CDU rival of being ‘dishonest’ for suggesting he was himself accused of wrongdoing and bragged about his own efforts to modernize the ministry he had led for three years .
Similar attempts to harm Scholz due to his links to the Wirecard accounting scandal and the Cum-Ex tax evasion scheme have failed to achieve the desired effect.
Laschet’s line of attack was tempered by the fact that financial scandals tend to be too complicated to be summed up in TV sound bites, and questions about the failure of oversight functions might also be asked about. of his own party.
An instant poll released after the debate showed Scholz reiterating the clear victory he won in the first debate, with 41% of viewers describing the SPD candidate as the most convincing, compared with 27% who said the same of Laschet and 25% who opted for the candidate of the Greens Annalena Baerbock.
Baerbock cut a more relaxed and lively figure than in the first debate, but found herself pushed into a moderating role as the pair got stuck in what she was laughing at. Vergangenhaltsbewältigungen, combing through the past of their coalition quarrels.
The Greens’ candidate criticized the two largest parties for their unambitious carbon emissions targets, arguing that Germany should shut down its coal plants well before 2028, as planned.
She refused to rule out the holding of coalition talks between the SPD, the Greens and the far-left party Die Linke. She said Die Linke was “of course a democratic party” which did not represent such extreme positions as the far right Alternative für Deutschland at the other end of the political spectrum.
Scholz also refused to rule out coalition talks with Die Linke, but accentuated his difference from the party founded in 2007 in part by disgruntled Social Democrats. “Recognition of transatlantic relations, NATO and the European Union are necessary for good government,” he said.
Laschet, in turn, did not rule out the possibility that his party could continue to serve in a coalition with the SPD, but with senior and junior roles reversed should Scholz win.