German Chancellor Angela Merkel made comments pressuring Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrat (SPD) candidate to succeed her, to categorically rule out a future coalition involving Germany's main socialist party, the Left party (or die Linke).
Her comments came as Scholz and the SPD enjoys a surge in highly volatile German opinion polls. In recent days, the SPD became the third party to take a slim lead in a matter of months.
Current polls suggest a three-way left-of-center alliance between the Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Left party could be one potential working alliance. Neither the SPD nor the Greens have ever allied with the Left party on a national scale, but both are in three-way coalitions with die Linke in the typically left-leaning city states of Bremen and Berlin.
'Huge difference' between Merkel and Scholz?
Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) rules out any alliance with the Left party, and has been pressuring its left-of-center rivals to do the same.
"With me as chancellor there would never be a coalition with the Linke party, and whether this can be said of Olaf Scholz or not remains open," Merkel told reporters in Berlin. "So in that regard, there's simply a huge difference for the future of Germany between me and him."
Scholz, for his part, had been touting his successful cooperation with Merkel in two different governments in recent weeks, and seeking to stress how strong a working relationship he had with the outgoing chancellor, who continues to trounce all of the candidates to replace her in terms of public approval ratings.
The CDU's candidate for chancellor Armin Laschet said: "It is no longer a gimmick whether these people sit at the cabinet table or not."
Bavarian premier Markus Söder, from the CDU's sister party the Christian Social Union, who had hoped to run instead of Laschet, jumped into the fray as well: "Everyone knows that Olaf Scholz wants to move to the left," he said.
SPD Secretary-General Lars Klingbeil, in turn, accused the CDU of tolerating a shift to the right in its ranks, and called on Laschet to address the transition.
In the past, SPD chancellor candidates have been known to exclude the possibility of an alliance with the Left on the national level, but the situation in 2021 is particularly complex. With all the major parties scoring poorly and the vote spread wide, building any viable coalition after the election could prove difficult.
Why is this a key election?
With just under four weeks to go until the September 26 election, Merkel's CDU party is slipping in opinion polls, while the SPD is taking the lead in the race.
Scholz, who is also Germany's vice chancellor, is presenting himself as the stable candidate and natural Merkel successor, despite coming from a rival party. Surveys have suggested that next month's vote could result in a three-way coalition government.
The latest Forsa survey for broadcasters NTV/RTL ranked the SPD with 23% of the vote, followed by the CDU at 21% and the Green party at 18%. But the polls have been swinging wildly for months, and all three of those parties have led at one time or another.
The election will mark a turning point for Germany's political landscape regardless of the shape of any future coalition, as Merkel will step down after 16 years as chancellor.
lc/msh (dpa, AFP)