Can the Chancellor crisis?
Scholz notices less under pressure
A commentary by Hubertus Volmer
05/17/2022, 2:55 p.m
A chancellor cannot please everyone, nor should he try. If the traffic light wants to advance the country’s overdue modernization, Scholz must fight more clearly for his political goals. On Monday he took a step in the right direction.
The Chancellor’s appearance on Monday in an “RTL Direkt Spezial” could have been another reason to be angry with Olaf Scholz. About his convoluted sentences and the fact that he avoids key terms like “transformation of the economy” or “heavy weapons”. Does he shy away from being defined, does he prefer not to be understood exactly? His predecessor practiced this very successfully. As a result, many issues have been left undone. At RTL it sounded very different. He didn’t notice as many as usual – and that put him on the right track.
Under the heading “Can the Chancellor Crisis?” Scholz was faced with four constraints: four voters who each have their own ideas about what is currently the most important issue – whether the welfare state is too strong or not strong enough, whether arms deliveries to Ukraine are starting too slowly or are all wrong whether the conversion of the economy towards climate neutrality is risky or necessary. In view of this challenge, Scholz has solved his task properly.
Scholz’ appearance showed two things. Firstly, the Chancellor communicates more clearly under pressure than in standard situations. When moderator Pinar Atalay asked whether Germany’s energy policy had been “too naive”, he admitted to making mistakes: “Yes, we should have always put ourselves in a position to use other suppliers at any time by using the pipelines, the ports build where you can get the gas from somewhere else.”
Don’t try to please everyone
Second, it became clear that it is simply impossible to please everyone. Scholz should not and will not give up the claim of being chancellor for everyone. But if his coalition wants to fulfill the claim of advancing the necessary modernization of the country, he must state his political goals more clearly and then fight for them. Only then will there be fewer issues at the end. As he showed on Monday evening, at least to some extent.
In the future, he should save himself arrogant-looking hints that he knew pretty much everything beforehand. When asked whether it was right to make oneself so dependent on Russian energy, Scholz said: “It would have been good if, in addition to the supply structures that we built from Russia (…), we would still have made it possible (… ) that we can switch every day to “importing gas from the north German ports”, to liquid gas. He had been campaigning for this for years. That true. But it was about saving the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline. Scholz’s commitment to LNG ports was not a strategically brilliant plan, but was intended to appease the United States.
Admittedly, every definition harbors dangers for a politician. He has to take intra-party sensitivities into account, such as the “Without Russia, there can be no peace in Europe” wing of the SPD in Ukraine policy, which is struggling with the turn of the century. It has to make a wide variety of constituencies feel that their concerns, perspectives and opinions are respected. And that’s just part of the constraints that a chancellor has to deal with. Nobody says it’s an easy task. And maybe the Germans wouldn’t want it any other way. Why else would Angela Merkel have been so popular until the end?