Campaign talk at Anne Will: Finally, programs are the focus

Campaign talk with Anne Will
Programs are finally in the spotlight

By Marko Schlichting

Anne Will is back after taking a two-month break in the summer. And in her very first broadcast she discussed one of the issues that people in Germany are currently dealing with: the election campaign with three politicians and two journalists.

Something like this is rarely offered to a television viewer: While a full-length discussion with the three candidates for chancellor from the Union, SPD and Greens is running on RTL and ntv, the First Anne Will speaks to three other politicians from these parties on Sunday evening. Differences between two discussion groups have seldom been greater. While the two presenters on RTL and ntv asked questions that the three guests tried to answer precisely, the presenter and guests often talked past each other on ARD. Even intensive inquiries did not always lead to the desired answers. This was rarely a satisfactory situation for the audience. The arguments were brave, but not always solution-oriented. Only at the end of the program was it really about the different election programs.

“A strong Laschet”

The trio on RTL and ntv is of course also a topic in the first. “We saw a strong Laschet,” said CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak from the CDU to Anne Will. At that time, however, he was not yet familiar with the survey by the opinion research institute Forsa, commissioned by RTL and ntv, in which the Union’s top candidate did poorly. Ziemiak wouldn’t care anyway: “In the end, people vote for parties and not people,” he says. And, in his opinion, the Union has the right and the best program. The most important goal: “We have to lower taxes.”

The deputy SPD chairman Kevin Kühnert naturally sees the top candidate of his party as the best choice. Scholz is the most experienced politician in his party, he says. And the SPD would be united behind Scholz. “There is only one SPD, and they don’t divide us up either.”

Cem Özdemir of the Greens is also campaigning for the top candidate of his party. “Tonight Baerbock showed that she can do it,” he says. He wants to talk about topics: climate policy is part of it, coal phasing out, economic progress. He complains about the renaissance of the fax machine in the corona crisis and asks: “Do we want our business partners to laugh at us?”

Two journalists are also invited: Jana Hensel from Zeit online and Christiane Hoffmann, an author in the “Spiegel” office in the capital. They all agree on one point: the choice is still open. However, Jana Hensel shows a certain antipathy when it comes to Annalena Baerbock from the Greens. She should have been substituted for Robert Habeck, she says. Because: people choose people.

The fear of the left

An important point in the program is the question of whether the SPD and the Greens would form a coalition with the left if they came to government in this way. For Ziemiak this is a foregone conclusion. In the end, Kühnert and SPD co-leader Saskia Esken would decide. “Scholz has nothing to say about that.” If the left came to power here in Germany, “then we will lose everything we have achieved in the past.”

“Great nonsense,” says Kühnert. “Anyone who believes that with Olaf Scholz the communist tyranny will move into Germany is wrong.” But Kühnert did not want to make a specific statement as to whether he was in favor of a government alliance with the left. That depends on the election result, the voters decided something.

Voters are the alpha and omega for Özdemir, too. However, he is a little more specific: He is certain that the left has no intention of participating in a government. He makes that clear from their voting behavior in the Bundestag last week, when the majority of the parliamentary group did not speak out in favor of the rescue operation of the Bundeswehr in Afghanistan. “Anyone who does not make a clear statement on such a question does not want to govern our country,” he says. Germany is the fourth largest economy in the world. “Such a country cannot be governed by a party in which the members disagree on issues such as Europe, NATO and Israel.” The left would only be considered for a co-government if they radically overturned their program.

Ziemiak continues to ask for an even clearer statement. Christiane Hoffmann explains his behavior as follows: “It is important for the CDU to bring its supporters to the polls with the fear of a red-red government”. In fact, Kevin Kühnert spoke up again: he really wanted a red-green government, and from that one is only a few percentage points away, he says.

And then: the election programs

Ultimately, the three of them really get to talk about their election programs, although here, too, it is more about what the respective opponents are doing wrong. But one thing is certain: the SPD would like a significant acceleration in renewable energies. Scholz also wants to introduce a minimum wage of 12 euros per hour in the first year of his tenure, says Kühnert.

The Union wants to relieve the middle class. You have to take care of the people on whose shoulders the economy rests. “We have to give money back to the people,” promises Ziemiak.

Cem Özdemir is particularly committed to helping children. “Digitization, the fight against child poverty, a value-oriented foreign policy and above all climate protection – these must be the basis for Germany’s successful business model,” says the politician.

An important difference in the election manifestos of the SPD and CDU is the question of spouse splitting. The SPD would like to replace that with a “family splitting”, while the Union does not want to change anything. At the end of the program it was clear that the SPD, Union and Greens had quite different visions for the next four years. That gives hope for another exciting election campaign.