Comment: Olaf Scholz shows chancellor format

Olaf Scholz on Thursday in the Bundestag

Not a brilliant, but rock solid speech.

(Photo: AP)

Olaf Scholz passed his first major test. He is still Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister of Finance, but he already had to give the future head of government in his speech on the corona pandemic in the Bundestag. The Executive Chancellor Angela Merkel is still sitting in the boss’s chair. As expected, Scholz did not deliver a brilliant, but rock-solid, quasi government statement and spoke particularly to the unvaccinated into the conscience. He wants to make Germany “winterproof” in the fight against Corona.

Scholz knows very well that this can turn into a winter of displeasure. It would then be his numbers that he is politically responsible for. Because the now reported 50,000 new infections are only the beginning. Virologists agree that we are facing a tough fourth wave. The Berlin Charité is postponing operations that can already be planned in order to have more capacity for the severe corona cases. Bavaria triggered a disaster alarm.

Scholz is known for his sentence: If you order a tour from me, you will get it. And so it is only logical that he and Merkel convene a conference with the prime ministers in the coming week. His future government partners Christian Lindner and Annalena Baerbock were against it, but they had to go along. For the first time, Scholz is setting his own accents in public. Union parliamentary group leader Ralph Brinkhaus got it completely on the wrong foot. In the best opposition manner, he shot at the traffic light, but he knew nothing about a conference of prime ministers with the country leaders.

While Scholz is still conducting coalition negotiations, the dramatically worsening coronavirus situation and the escalation in the conflict between the EU and Belarus are two issues on the agenda that did not play a role in the working groups of the traffic light coalition. This interim reign undoubtedly complicates the situation. There are constructive forces like the still-Health Minister Jens Spahn, who supports the future traffic light coalition to get free citizen tests on the way again. And there are destructive forces like the remaining CSU ministers. Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has not coordinated his plans to build a fence on the Polish-Belarusian border with anyone. To stay in Seehofer’s jargon: It’s filthy. He is supported by his long-time counterpart Markus Söder. The CSU boss explains to the traffic light every day what to do: You shouldn’t save the Bundeswehr and go the Bavarian way in the fight against Corona. On migration issues, the CSU falls back into the wording of 2015, which was very similar to the AfD speech.

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The citizens do not want shrill tones

Scholz could have mentioned all of this in his speech. But he didn’t do that. He pretended to support the state because he knows: The Germans want it that way. Citizens do not appreciate shrill tones in such a tense situation. As in the election campaign, Scholz is the new Angela Merkel. Now it’s time to keep a cool head and work with the executive government to get the best out of the country. Scholz was silent about the pandemic for a long time and thus attracted a lot of criticism. At the beginning it looked as if the future traffic light policy would dominate in other policy areas, the FDP and the Greens. Since Scholz’s speech, it is now clear who is the cook and who is the waiter. Formally, he does not yet have the chancellor’s famous policy authority. But he signals to his partners: When things get tight, the Chancellor leads.

More: Still important unanswered questions during the traffic light negotiations

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