BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday dismissed Social Democrat Olaf Scholz’s attempts to portray himself as her natural successor in Germany’s general election campaign.
The conservative leader, who plans to step down following the September 26 vote after 16 years in power, took aim at the Social Democrat (SPD) candidate for chancellor over his repeated refusal to rule out a coalition with the far left.
Scholz serves as vice chancellor and finance minister in the current ruling coalition and has presented himself as the logical heir to the popular Merkel, although the two come from different parties. The strategy has paid dividends: The SPD has soared to first place in the polls while the conservative camp has fallen dramatically following a series of gaffes by chancellor candidate Armin Laschet.
But Merkel said there was a “huge difference for the future of Germany” between Scholz and herself.
“With me as chancellor, there would never be a coalition in which the Left party is involved. And it is not clear whether this is the case with Olaf Scholz or not,” she said at a joint press conference with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Berlin.
Merkel has generally tried to stay out of the election campaign, although she appeared at a rally with Laschet earlier this month. Her blunt intervention on Tuesday appeared to reflect the depth of anxiety felt by conservative leaders about the state of the election race.
By raising the prospect of a coalition involving the Left party, conservative strategists hope to drive centrist voters away from Scholz and into their camp.
In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung published at the weekend, Scholz again refused to rule out a coalition with the Left party, saying that such a move was “not good for democracy.” He said it was up to the voters to choose who should govern Germany.
According to POLITICO’s Poll of Polls, the Social Democrats currently stand at 24 percent, followed by the CDU/CSU conservative alliance on 22 percent and the Greens on 18 percent.