German Chancellor: Who are Olaf Sholz and Armin Laschet? Projected Merkel successors

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Germans headed to the poll for the 2021 federal election on Sunday, September 26, to choose who would govern them for the coming four years. Projections ahead of the German election showed a dead heat between the main parties, the Social Democrats and conservatives led by Olaf Scholz and Armin Laschet respectively. The exit polls published as soon as the polling stations closed indicate the race in Germany is exceedingly close, meaning a clear successor to Angela Merkel is far from obvious.

The German exit poll published by broadcaster ARD indicates the SPD and CDU/CSU would both walk away with 25 percent of the vote.

This would leave a remaining 15 percent for the Greens, 11 percent for the Free Democratic Party, 10 percent for the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and five percent for Die Linke (the Left).

The nation’s second exit poll from public broadcaster ZDF showed the likelihood of the SPD walking away with a narrow victory at 26 percent of the vote.

This compares to 24 percent for the CDU/CSU, 14.5 percent of the Greens, 12 percent for the FDP and 10 percent for AfD.

The remainder of the votes would be split between five percent for the Lef and 8.5 percent for other parties.

Who is Olaf Scholz?

Mr Scholz, 63, is the current German Finance Minister and Chancellor Merkel’s deputy.

He has proven popular with voters throughout the campaign, with many trusting him to take over from Ms Merkel.

The Finance Minister is from Osnabrück in north-western Germany and entered politics as a Socialist Youth leader, having studied labour law.

Mr Scholz has long been described as a liability within his party due to his co-governing junior partners of Ms Merkel’s conservatives – but he has now managed to turn that into an asset, styling himself as the best natural successor for the outgoing chancellor.

Addressing an audience at the SPD headquarters, Mr Scholz said he was pleased with the result.

The SPD leader said: “Of course I am happy about the result.

“This is a great success.”

He said the result made clear that people wanted a change in government “and they want the chancellor to be Olaf Scholz.”

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Who is Armin Laschet?

Mr Laschet, 60, is the current leader of the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and premier of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) which is Germany’s most populous state.

He has run the NRW since 2017 and has been the leader since earlier this year.

The CDU leader narrowly beat the Bavarian leader Markus Söder to which the leadership role.

Mr Laschet has struggled to gain traction with voters, particularly in the wake of a gaffe during a flooding engagement earlier this year during which he was caught on camera laughing as the President of Germany made a speech in a town largely destroyed by devastating flooding.

Mr Laschet is a highly religious candidate at a time when more Germans are quitting the Roman Catholic faith.

The CDU leader has emerged as a traditional right-wing politician, as opposed to a Ms Merkel centrist.

Speaking about polling day and exit poll results, Mr Laschet said the result is “neck-and-neck”.

He added Germany is in an “extraordinary position”, acknowledging the party’s loss of support in line with Ms Merkel’s departure.

Mr Laschet said the next likely Government will consist of a three-party coalition and the CDU/CSU aims to do everything it can to lead the next Government.

This means the party and its leader intends to fight for a Jamaica coalition, which is so named after the colours of the flag – gold, green and black.

A Jamaica coalition would be led by the CDU/CSU with liberals such as the Greens and the FDP.

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