Three candidates are vying to succeed Angela Merkel as Germany’s chancellor in the national election on Sunday.
Olaf Scholz, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), is leading in the opinion polls, while conservative leader Armin Laschet is still hopeful that Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) will win the elections, and he will become the new chancellor. The Greens’ candidate Annalena Baerbock is placed third in the surveys.
Polls show that none of the parties will get enough votes to govern alone, and the winning party’s chancellor candidate will likely face tough negotiations to form a coalition government.
Here is a closer look at Germany’s three chancellor candidates and details of what they pledged during their campaigns:
Laschet favors outgoing Merkel’s centrist politics and is known for his pragmatic, liberal views. For many observers, he represents the continuity with the Merkel era.
During his campaign, he called on the citizens to vote for the Christian Democrats to ensure that the country will be governed by a “reliable” and “stable” government in the next four years.
In recent weeks, he sharpened his criticism of Social Democrats, saying that a left-wing coalition led by the SPD would plunge the country into an economic crisis.
Laschet’s election pledges include tax relief for low-income earners, strengthening families financially, raising tax allowance for childcare, and stronger measures to fight crime by installing more public surveillance cameras.
Modernizing economy and strengthening Germany’s competitiveness has been one of the key priorities Laschet underlined during his campaign. His election program foresees cutting red tape to encourage investment, and supporting innovative startups and climate-friendly projects. He opposed tax hikes suggested by the Social Democrats and the Greens.
The 60-year-old seasoned politician is planning to set up a “national security council” within the Chancellery to facilitate better coordination between ministries, the military and intelligence organizations on national security and crisis situations.
Laschet backed plans to increase defense budget in order to reach NATO’s goal of spearing 2% of national output on defense. The Christian Democrats are planning to invest more on military drones.
The Social Democrats’ chancellor candidate is the vice-chancellor and finance minister in the current coalition government. His popularity ratings have soared in recent weeks, and he is seen as the most competent chancellor candidate by the majority of the voters.
During his campaign, Scholz said if the Social Democrats win the election, they will make every effort for better wages, stable pensions, and affordable housing. He promised to raise the national minimum wage to €12 ($14) per hour. He said the retirement age, which stands at 67, will not rise any further.
The Social Democrats are planning to introduce tax relief for lower- and middle-income households, and proposing tax hikes for the wealthiest Germans.
Climate protection has been one of the key issues in the SPD’s election program. Social Democrats are planning to generate 100% Germany’s electricity from renewable sources by 2040, and reaching climate neutrality by 2045 at the latest.
Scholz is planning to support large investments for developing hydrogen production and networks. His goal is to make Germany market leader in hydrogen technologies by 2030.
On foreign policy, Scholz is advocating a stronger EU, which can play a leading role in preventing international crises, promoting peace and democracy. During his campaign speeches, he also underlined the importance of close cooperation with the US.
While the Social Democrats expressed their support for the creation of a European army in their election program, they also underlined that NATO remains essential for Europe’s security, and it is the cornerstone of the transatlantic partnership.
The environmentalist Greens’ candidate Baerbock is the only woman running for chancellor’s slot in this election, and also the youngest among the candidates.
The 40-year-old politician has been considered “the most sympathetic” candidate by the voters, according to recent surveys. But she lacks experience and never held a position in the government.
Baerbock repeatedly criticized the other two chancellor candidates for following the status quo and argued that Germany needs a “fresh start” with a new government led by the Greens to lead the country’s socio-ecological transformation.
The Greens have the most ambitious program to fight climate change. Baerbock’s goal is a transition to 100% renewable energy by 2035, and reaching climate neutrality within 20 years. Their plan includes mandatory use of renewables for new heating systems, installing 1.5 million solar roofs within the next four years, and taking the necessary steps to ensure that all new car registrations will be emission-free from 2030 onwards.
During her election campaign, Baerbock defended her party’s plans to introduce a wealth tax and increase the income tax to 45% for those earning more than €100,000 in a year.
The Greens hope that the country’s digital and green transformation will boost economic growth and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the country.
Baerbock has repeatedly said that Germany must play a more active role in international politics and take more responsibility. While her party views NATO as one of the important pillars of European security, it calls for a new strategic perspective for the alliance. The Greens are critical of NATO’s 2% defense spending goal.