From “automaton” to chancellor. The austere Olaf Scholz, long unloved by the Social Democratic Party, is preparing to take over from Angela Merkel at the head of an unprecedented three-party coalition, thanks to his experience as a minister and local elected representative , and a flawless campaign.
At 63 years old, the big money-maker of the Merkel government will unveil Wednesday the final coalition agreement negotiated for two months with environmentalists and liberals. He paves the way for his election, the week of December 6, as chancellor of the first European economy at the end of an improbable comeback of an SPD party described recently as dying.
Without making waves and taking inspiration from the Merkel style, to the point of mimicry in the gestures, this follower of the running managed to impose himself while he remains quite unknown to the Germans themselves.
There is thus no biography of the future chancellor, yet minister on several occasions and former mayor of Hamburg, the second largest city in the country.
– Flight –
Described by Spiegel as “the embodiment of boredom in politics”, Mr. Scholz has crossed all levels of public policy since the 1970s.
Born in Osnabrück on June 14, 1958 to a father traveling salesman and a stay-at-home mother, he joined in 1975 the powerful youth movement of the SPD, the “Jusos”.
He then has long hair, wears woolen sweaters and takes part in a number of pacifist demonstrations.
At the same time, Olaf Scholz pursued legal studies and, with a smooth head, in 1985 opened a law firm specializing in labor law.
In particular, he defends employees in numerous cases, from German reunification in 1990, to the privatization and dismantling of ex-GDR companies.
His career will really take off when the Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder arrives at the Chancellery. Elected deputy in 1998, Mr. Scholz became secretary general of the SPD in 2002.
He must then each day explain in front of the cameras the details of the chancellor’s unpopular liberal reforms.
– Boutade –
His monotonous tone earns him the nickname “Scholzomat”, a joke which Mr. Scholz does not like even though he admitted in August that “it certainly was not an entirely false description”. “I was always asked the same questions and I always provided the same answers”, defends the one who ensures “laugh more often than people think”.
The liberalization of the labor market in a country then considered “the sick man of Europe” will divide the German left and precipitate the defeat of Mr. Schröder against Angela Merkel in 2005.
In 2007, Olaf Scholz bounced back to the Ministry of Labor of the grand coalition, a post which allowed him to polish his image in favor of the financial crisis of 2008 and the partial unemployment mechanisms he set up.
In 2011, this political bulimic, an environment from which his wife, Britta Ernst, Minister of Education in the Brandenburg region, also came from, became mayor of the Hanseatic city.
Mr. Scholz is pursuing an ambitious policy in terms of social housing and early childhood, but is expensive with public funds.
– “Bazooka” –
If the elected official explodes the budget of his city between 2011 and 2018, he sticks at the federal level to his credo: “We only give what we have”.
Mr. Scholz succeeds the prestigious post of Minister of Finance to the very Orthodox Christian Democrat Wolfgang Schäuble, whose inflexible financial management he continues.
His centrist positioning contributes to marginalizing him within his own party, to the point that in 2019, the militants prefer him to lead a duo of almost unknowns, much more to the left.
Mr. Scholz nevertheless manages to bounce back from the pandemic, not hesitating to break with the budgetary doxa and to take the “bazooka” out of public spending.
Despite the disavowal of 2019, the SPD, one of the oldest European parties, chooses him to defend his colors, despite several cases that tarnish his passage in Finance.
There is in particular the resounding bankruptcy of the financial company Wirecard, the pride of the German economy at the origin of massive frauds which the supervisory authority, which depended on the ministry of Mr. Scholz, did not detect.
Not what ultimately disrupt his ascent to the chancellery, where he will succeed Angela Merkel, with whom this man, who describes himself as “feminist”, claims to have “always” maintained “good relations”.