German elections: will the floods change the game?
Until last week, the public's attention in the race for the chancellorship in Germany was mainly focused on the Green party's top candidate Annalena Baerbock. Then the flood disaster struck and CDU candidate Armin Laschet attracted attention by laughing at a memorial service for the victims. However commentators do not see eye to eye on whether the cards will now be completely reshuffled for the federal election in two months' time.
The Germans don't have much choice
Ria Novosti predicts that Laschet will become chancellor despite his laughing gaffe simply because of a lack of stronger rivals:
“The polls will soon show how the Germans perceive the 'laughing candidate'. Initially, he will certainly dip in the ratings, but how bitter and, above all, how lasting will the disappointment be? Presumably he will come away with small losses, although there are plenty of people who would like to see him fail. ... But the Germans don't have much choice: Baerbock is not competent enough. Finance Minister Scholz is too tied to the SPD's low ratings. So Laschet may not be a hit, but at least he is the heir to the popular Merkel.”
A break with the Merkel era
Last week's floods could be a game changer for the election campaign, the Financial Times believes:
“The floods have exposed weaknesses in Germany's disaster response systems and opened up a debate about the long years of under-investment in infrastructure under Merkel. They indicate that Germany's much-admired federal model of government can fail the people if the politicians in charge are complacent or slow to act. For these reasons, the next German government will not only have to display greater urgency on climate change but will be under pressure to invest more heavily in economic modernisation as a whole. The break with the Merkel era may be more decisive than had seemed likely before the floods.”
Campaigns were much harsher in the past
Chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock has come under media scrutiny for inaccuracies in her CV and in her declaration on supplementary income in recent months. And her political rivals also played hardball with this. But Jyllands-Posten finds the complaints of the Greens about the attacks on Baerbock being too harsh exaggerated:
“Annalena Baerbock was born in 1980 - the year in which the most brutal election campaign in modern Germany took place, between the then incumbent chancellor Helmut Schmidt of the SPD and the Bavarian bully Franz Josef Strauß. There was a hail of poison arrows and blows below the belt. ... If the Green leadership now presents the criticism of Baerbock as 'historically unprecedented', it's due either to their youth, a strange approach to the culture of debate or an extremely selective perception.”