Merkel, would-be successors, spar in final Bundestag debate

dpatop - Chancellor Angela Merkel and Armin Laschet Photo: Federico Gambarini/dpa-Pool/dpa
dpatop - Chancellor Angela Merkel and Armin Laschet Photo: Federico Gambarini/dpa-Pool/dpa

The three candidates hoping to succeed German Chancellor Angela Merkel – and Merkel herself – set out their stalls on Tuesday in the final scheduled debate in the lower house of parliament before national elections.

Centre-right leader Merkel from the Christian Democrats (CDU) made her preference clear: “The best way forward for our country is a CDU- and CSU- [Christian Social Union] led government with Armin Laschet as chancellor, as his government would stand for stability, moderation and the centre ground, and that is exactly what Germany needs,” she said.

Laschet in turn thanked Merkel for “16 good years for Germany.”

He accused his main rival, Olaf Scholz from the Social Democrats, of trying to imitate Merkel, while in fact being beholden to the left-wing leadership of his party.

Scholz – who is several points ahead in the polls – warned on the other hand that another administration led by the centre-right would “cost Germany in terms of jobs and quality of life.”

As Merkel’s finance minister, he thanked Merkel for their time working together in the current grand coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD.

The Green candidate, Annalena Baerbock, argued that climate change should be at the centre of government policy like never before after the September 26 elections.

A lack of action on climate had led Germany to a “dead end” she told lawmakers.

Once thought a possible likely chancellor, Baerbock’s chances have melted away as the Greens slipped to third in the polls in recent months.

Other party leaders also had time to speak in the general Bundestag debate. Alice Weidel from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) – the biggest party in parliament after the CDU/CSU and the SPD – had few kind words for the outgoing administration.

Its successors “had a lot of cleaning up to do,” she said. Criticizing the government’s migration and energy policies, she said Merkel had left Germany as a “hippie state” which was “insecure and divided.”

The head of the hard-left Die Linke in parliament, Dietmar Bartsch, also described Germany as in a “state of crisis,” and pushed for a left-wing coalition after the elections.

Bartsch made a jibe at the head of the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), Christian Lindner, arguing that “it would be better to govern with Die Linke, than to govern falsely with Lindner.”

The quote harks back to a now infamous statement by Lindner when the broke off coalition negotiations after elections in 2017. He gave his reasoning at the time as: “It is better not to govern at all, than to govern falsely.”

Lindner himself told the Bundestag that “continuity would be the biggest risk for our country,” as it faced financial challenges that imperilled the country’s future.

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