Baerbock in the Triell at eye level: Laschet fights and Scholz makes Merkel

Two hours, three candidates, a federal election: at the first Triell, viewers experience a passionate to quick-tempered Union candidate, a self-confident Greens chairman and a sometimes invisible poll king. But that of all people is well received by the audience.

It takes five minutes for Triell viewers to get an answer to one of the most important questions of this chancellor candidate contest: Yes, Armin Laschet actually wants to become Federal Chancellor. With the issue of the Afghanistan mission, which is actually so uncomfortable for the Union, your candidate finds a first keyword to attack his opponents. The CDU chief speaks of a “disaster” and demands: “We will have to equip our Bundeswehr better.” Social Democrats and Greens accuse Laschet of hesitation and refusal to answer questions about the budget and armament of the Bundeswehr.

The moderators Pinar Atalay and Peter Kloeppel did not ask about the state of the Bundeswehr at the moment, but Laschet was clearly determined from the start to deliver a passionate performance. In the following 105 minutes, the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia presents himself as the most energetic candidate, shows himself aggressive, impatient and sometimes gets loud. An appearance that can optionally also be perceived as quick-tempered. Be that as it may: the man whose party fell abruptly in the polls has not yet thrown the gun in the grain. An important message to the electoral base.

Legacy sneak or political professional?

The same can be said of Annalena Baerbock, who goes into the triumph as a third party who is slightly behind in the polls. The Greens chief works mainly on Laschet when it comes to alleged and actual failures of the outgoing federal government. For the 40-year-old, Laschet is yesterday’s face when she says sentences like: “You can continue to tell the stories that were told five years ago, but the world has turned on”. But Laschet is not the Groko representative in the group, but Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz. However, the Federal Finance Minister largely conceals that, as he feels he least says on this evening – although in the end everyone has 27 to 28 minutes of speaking time.

The Social Democrat, who is said to have performed the greatest miracle in political Berlin since Jesus’ steps across the water, since the SPD has been fighting for the election again, is the most reluctant candidate. Hesse’s Prime Minister, Volker Bouffier, dubbed Scholz in a conversation with ntv as the “legacy sneak” of Angela Merkel even before the broadcast. She had rarely allowed herself to be drawn into confrontations in her TV duels. But it is also possible that Scholz simply cannot get out of his skin as an extremely controlled political professional – even by North German standards.

But Scholz is not the hunter that evening either. He is the hunted who owes his good prospects for the Chancellery primarily to the mistakes of the others. Leaning back and letting the two continue arguing can certainly be a calculation. In any case, the finance minister is well received by the public: A Forsa survey immediately after the Triell shows Scholz as the winner with 36 percent of those surveyed. Baerbock is ahead for 30 percent and only 25 percent see Laschet as the winner of the Trielles.

“You are not serious here now, Mr. Scholz”

In less than two hours, Baerbock, Laschet and Scholz will be debating the upcoming pandemic months, measures against climate change, possible tax increases, questions of internal security, the controversial issue of gender, East Germany and possible coalitions in addition to the Afghanistan mission. This last topic, which, as is so often the case, leads away from the political content, should continue to occupy the parties and especially the SPD in the coming days: Because Olaf Scholz fails to completely exclude a government alliance with the Left Party, and the Union has its final election campaign recognizable based on a horror scenario red-green-red.

“You are not being serious here, Mr. Scholz,” Laschet exclaimed at an initial response from the SPD candidate, who cited reliability in foreign policy and a commitment to NATO as a prerequisite for a coalition. “You can’t play like Angela Merkel now and talk like Saskia Esken,” says Laschet and demands a clear statement: “I won’t do it: three words, no, four words,” Laschet calculates. But Scholz refuses. Baerbock also does not want to commit themselves once and for all, even if both make credible how difficult it is for them to imagine an alliance with the left.

After this evening, it is difficult to imagine a government alliance between the Union and the Greens. The programmatic differences are huge: In terms of climate policy, Baerbock accuses the Union of playing off climate protection and social justice against each other and ultimately doing nothing to achieve the Paris climate goals. “Your policy means that climate protection is socially unjust,” complains Baerbock with a view to the Union’s refusal to let landlords pay the CO2 price for building heating. Laschet, on the other hand, finds the Greens dangerous: “They put shackles on industry and say ‘run faster!'”. Scholz does not want to go along with so much passion and insists: “I am for a moderate path.”

Baerbock sinks a penalty

Baerbock and Laschet also clash with the corona policy. All three participants reject a new lockdown for those who have been vaccinated, although Baerbock is the only one who does not rule out compulsory vaccination for certain occupational groups per se. “Every time there was a promise from politicians before the holidays that the schools would be safe after the holidays,” complains Baerbock about the general pandemic management with a view to the lack of indoor air filters. “That doesn’t work if you have government responsibility in a country, and if things go badly, you say the federal government is to blame,” countered Laschet, referring to eleven state governments in which the Greens are involved.

When it comes to taxes, things get heated: Baerbock reports that when their second daughter started school a few weeks ago, poorer students could not have afforded a new satchel. “I would like to change that with a basic child benefit,” says Baerbock. According to the Greens, but also the SPD, children should be completely removed from the Hartz IV system. “You help the children by helping them, and especially the parents, to get out of Hartz IV,” Laschet opposes. “Then you say: As long as that doesn’t work, the children are just unlucky,” “said Baerbock, converting the penalty kick.

When it comes to taxes, Scholz also wakes up when he defends his plan to raise the top tax rate by three percentage points. Tax cuts, as promised by the Union, are “the wrong message” with 400 billion euros in Corona debt, says Scholz. “All the tax ideas are downright foolish,” says Laschet and explains: “The decisive factor is not the level of tax rates, but the level of tax revenue.” The Union would rather unleash the economy through relief.

Scholz also criticizes Laschet in the dispute about the status of the law on data retention: “No, you are now tangled up, you are welcome to admit that,” Scholz instructs him. At these moments, when Laschet looks at the ground with a snort, it seems as if the CDU chairman has to admonish himself to control himself. The fuse there seems to be shorter than the cigarillos that Laschet likes to puff. Real trouble between Scholz and Baerbock, on the other hand, is rare. Politically, the two are much closer to each other, but according to the surveys, it is not enough for red-green. Not yet: If the fighting Laschet did not ignite in the population, even that could still happen.