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BERLIN – Germany’s main political parties have held their coronations, but only one will take over Angela Merkel’s crown.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz was the last to receive his party’s seal of approval as a candidate for chancellor at an online conference at the weekend.
The move was a formality, but it confirmed the menu of three potential chancellors the Germans will face in the September elections. The trio will compete against each other in a public television debate a few weeks before election day, the broadcasters announced on Wednesday.
Here are the key points of the trio fighting to succeed Merkel, the veteran Christian Democrat who is stepping down after 16 years in power.
Current job: Co-leader of the Greens
Background: After studying in Hamburg and London, where she graduated in international law, Baerbock worked for an MEP in Brussels before returning to Germany and winning the Bundestag election.
Fun fact: As a teenager, Baerbock was a competitive trampoline gymnast (a fact that has sparked endless political metaphors in the German press).
Bottom line: Baerbock’s candidacy re-energized the campaign and brought the green base together. Still, it is far from the willingness of certain Germans to place their future in the hands of someone who, despite the record that he jumped into the unknown and landed on their feet, has never held an executive position.
Party: Christian Democratic Union (CDU)
Current job: Prime Minister of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia
Background: The son of a miner, Laschet grew up in a Catholic working-class family and received a university scholarship from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (a foundation close to the CDU). He has spent most of his career in politics, including as an MEP.
Fun fact: He once published a Catholic newspaper.
Bottom line: Laschet’s main advantage – that he represents the status quo – could also be what the election will cost him. After 16 years of Merkeling, many Germans are ready for change.
Party: Social Democrats (SPD)
Current job: Federal Minister of Finance, Vice Chancellor
Background: Former Hamburg mayor and labor lawyer Scholz is a moderate career politician who had a prominent place in the gradual decline of his party. Although he can seem a bit boring, the Germans trust him and his approval ratings are solid.
Fun fact: As a young socialist in the 1980s, Scholz was a staunch anti-capitalist who dismissed NATO as “imperialist”.
Bottom line: Even if Scholz has the experience, brains, and confidence to do the top job, his Social Democrats only vote 15 percent, so his chances of becoming chancellor are slim.