The kidneys have been tasted the differences between the parties emphasized

After a summer of political slippage and scandal, Germany had eagerly awaited the first televised debate between the three main rivals to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel. In the opinion polls, Olaf Scholz (SPD), Armin Laschet (CDU/CSU) and Annalena Baerbock (Die Grünen) are hardly inferior to each other. Who made the most impression during the TV debate?

Marja Verburg (editor of Germany Web, affiliated with the Germany Institute Amsterdam)

‘In the refreshingly substantive TV debate, Laschet had the most difficult starting position. Just a month ago, his bed seemed to be made. Scholz now surpasses him in several polls. Laschet started the debate well, but was repeatedly tricked by Baerbock. She showed that she possessed a great deal of detailed knowledge and presented herself as a candidate for innovation and climate policy.

‘Scholz presented himself as the quiet statesman. Until recently, no one attributed many opportunities to him and his ailing SPD. Now he is by far the most popular chancellor’s candidate – voters see him as the calm crisis manager they also appreciate in Merkel. Scholz emphasized his experience as finance minister and vice chancellor. His calm was sometimes very emphatic.

‘After 16 years of Merkel, Germany is ready for renewal, is often the explanation for the success of the Greens in recent years. But judging by the advance of Scholz, they like stability even more. We still have four weeks. Seldom have German elections been so changeable.’

Georgi Verbeeck (professor of German history, affiliated with Maastricht University and KU Leuven)

‘It was a first, not a TV duel, but a TV debate, for the first time three candidates instead of two. In the past, incumbent Chancellors have always faced their challenger, in other words a duel between CDU/CSU and SPD, or vice versa. Now there was also the chancellor candidate of the Greens. But the debate Triell as the Germans say, it was startling in form, but hardly in content. Laschet, Scholz and Baerbock all belong to the ‘moderate’ current within their political families, and it was not really sharp in the first major television debate. There was no real winner.’

Jacco Pekelder (historian and Germany expert at Utrecht University)

‘Laschet gave the members of the CDU and CSU the courage to take to the streets for him with a few fierce attacks. Baerbock withstood those attacks quite sovereignly and also dealt some blows himself. In the round of debate on corona policy, she accused the current CDU/CSU and SPD government coalition of having abandoned children and their parents in the long education lockdown. She also posed for the champion of Germany’s families when it came to social policy and taxes.

However, Baerbock made a crucial mistake on Sunday evening by not making a direct financial promise to the voter. This left Scholz the space to point out that his party has actually provided more money for poorer families in the past term of office. For example, the theme of child and family remained mainly of the SPD.

“Scholz showed us, quite as expected, his imperturbable, presidential self. He insisted most clearly on the central slogan of the SPD campaign: “Respect for you.” It seems to me the message that best suits the zeitgeist. Its advance will undoubtedly continue.’

Hanco Jürgens (historian associated with the Germany Institute Amsterdam)

‘Scholz positioned himself above the parties. He championed the incumbent government, defended decisions he made together with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, and with them even typical CDU positions, such as strengthening the police and lowering the solidarity surcharge for Eastern countries. Germany. That is the tactic with which Merkel always won elections: adopting the opposing positions, thus taking the sting out of the debate. Merkel’s party colleague Laschet should have won this debate convincingly to turn the tide. He failed to do that. ‘

Willem Melching (historian and Germany expert at the University of Amsterdam)

‘The debate was a procession of dwarfs: mediocre politicians with little charisma and a total lack of humor. All three were second-choice in their party and all three were terrified of making mistakes. That mission was successful, but it did not lead to an exciting debate. Politicians like Brandt or Schmidt or Kohl or Schröder were out to destroy the opponent. Here we saw people who were busy with Damage limitation, the prevention of accidents. A poll among the viewers shows that Scholz – he carefully presented himself as a statesman, dressed in a black suit that was just a little too big for him – has been the winner by far and Laschet has done poorly.’

Margriet Brandsma (former correspondent for the NOS in Germany (2002-2011), wrote among others Het mirakel Merkel)

The first debate between the chancellor’s candidates looks forward to the next two in September. The kidneys are tasted, the differences between the batches emphasized. Finally, you have the sense that an election campaign is underway, and the candidates who have been under so much pressure for the past few weeks are back. This was especially true for Baerbock, energetic and strong in content; Laschet showed that he wants to fight, even if it is at the expense of what his party colleague Merkel led.

‘Scholz became wealthy overnight in virtual voter favor and presented himself as the statesman to whom the Germans can entrust the country. They just like the way he operates, businesslike and rushing above the parties. But its competitors have not yet given up. Whether Laschet can really make things difficult for Scholz remains to be seen after Sunday. The surprise of the debate was Annalena Baerbock.’

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