End of election campaign in Cologne: SPD refuses to make any gesture of triumph

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End of election campaign in Cologne: SPD refuses to make any gesture of triumph

According to all polls, the SPD and its top candidate Olaf Scholz will lead the Bundestag elections on Sunday. However, at the end of an astonishingly successful campaign, there is no cheating in the last major election campaign. Others have to offer something like emotion.

SPD Secretary-General Lars Klingbeil still counts down the time for 51 hours until 6 p.m. on Sunday at the Heumarkt in Cologne, then the party is over. Anyway, it will be a happy end to the election campaign that will last more than a year. By probably significantly more than 20 percent, far better than virtually anyone outside the SPD has thought possible since Olaf Scholz was nominated as chancellor in August 2020. And it may even be so well that after Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt and Gerhard Schröder, the next Social Democratic Chancellor is Olaf Scholz. Since victory is not yet in sackcloth, tension reigns in these final hours. “If you lead 2-0 in football in the 88th minute, you won’t come off the field,” Klingbeil appealed to the many comrades in arms who gathered in Cologne. Then you really have to fight to take control of the target.

If you really want to speak in football metaphors like FC Bayern fan Klingbeil, it’s important to note that, given a research lead over the Union, the statistical margin of error is at most 1:0, against an opponent who stubbornly and allowed himself to get at everyone. his Resists the means to the approaching defeat. With the legal means as a matter of interpretation. In any case, SPD boss Norbert Walter-Borjans complained about foul play and scolded in Cologne: “This is the most indecent election campaign I’ve ever seen from the conservatives.” Considering Adenauer’s dirty campaign in 1961 against “Mr. Brandt alias Frahm” this may be a bit of an exaggeration, but at the time, the former finance minister of NRW was only nine years old. In the 70s it was certainly very rough.

The SPD leadership is here, and so is the rest of the world

On the other hand, Walter-Borjans’ accusation against the Union is still the most combative moment of this tame election campaign conclusion. The last major SPD event before the federal election is more inward-looking. Close ranks, focus and fight to the end is the message. Avoiding mistakes has always been a credo of this SPD election campaign, which is why there are no hasty triumphant gestures.

The party leadership is waiting with a lot of SPD attention: in addition to chairmen Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken and election campaign leader Klingbeil, federal ministers Hubertus Heil, Christine Lambrecht and Svenja Schulze are also present. The party leader Rolf Mützenich, in whose constituency the event takes place, came along, along with the mayors of Bremen and Hamburg, Andreas Bovenschulte and Peter Tschentscher. Even Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris and the most prominent representative of the French sister party Parti Socialiste, takes the honours.

But the star guest is logically Vice-Chancellor Scholz. The large amount of foreign press gathered indicates that the surveys are also closely followed outside of Germany. There is great interest in the Federal Minister of Finance, who has until now been poorly known internationally. Practical for the foreign correspondents: Scholz also gave a presentation in his usual way about the main features of the SPD election manifesto during his last major appearance before Election Sunday. In gray skies and summer temperatures, the Chancellor’s favorite stands casually on stage in black trousers and a white shirt. According to the fold, he did not bother to change after arrival. Germany, that much is certain with regard to Scholz’s competitors, will be governed without excessive vanity in the future.

Lots of applause and a smile

Just because Scholz has little news to share doesn’t mean he couldn’t inspire the officially 2,000 listeners — including the infamous handful of trembling silk cherries. When it comes to the fight against child poverty, guaranteed pension stability and the alleged braking of the Union in the energy transition, Scholz is particularly applauded. And he even shows his always maximum dose of humor. When the chancellor candidate starts talking about the pandemic, he says: “You can see Corona is still there – I see Karl Lauterbach.” After laughing, Scholz says, “But he’s just warning about it,” and greets his party friend, who has his constituency just around the corner. The former first mayor of Hamburg won’t be happy in Cologne anymore, but at least he will be.

More important than laughter is the applause for another campaign topic: respect. This term, which was bulky and abstract at the start of the campaign, seems to be getting better and better towards the end of the election, at least among the SPD’s core clients. He himself grew up in a big city, studied and became a lawyer. “It’s no worse being a craftsman in a small town,” says Scholz, or a factory worker. What some take for granted seems to strike a chord with others: ‘We must meet again at eye level in Germany,’ demands Scholz, both fists clenched. In recent months, the SPD has succeeded – also through constant repetition – in making the social issue big again and profiling itself as the party that takes care of it. Under Scholz, the last veteran of the Schröder years alongside Frank-Walter Steinmiere, the image of the Hartz IV party, which has cost so many regular voters, is gradually starting to shed its light.

No exuberance until the end

The fact that this message was received has a lot to do with Klingbeil, who orchestrated the campaign in close consultation with the chairman and the chancellor candidate. On Friday, he proudly announced that another target had been broken: The election campaigners would have rang three million house and apartment doors this weekend, Lower Saxony proudly announced. And another campaign this afternoon gives the SPD a good feeling: Jupp Bednarski and Herrmann Soggeberg take the stage. The former chairman of the works council at Telekom and the chairman of the works council at Unilever started the campaign “Works councils for Olaf Scholz”. At first it is a strange looking finale because the two gentlemen like to talk a lot and passionately, but are completely unknown to the public and probably also to Scholz.

But Scholz is actually a bit moved because he has worked as an employment lawyer himself for a long time. “I had a life before politics,” said 63-year-old Scholz, recalling that he only entered the Bundestag in 1998, at the age of 40. To top it off, there’s another big group photo with all the star guests on stage, plus the tune from Tina Turner’s hit song “Simply the Best”. It’s all very conventional, but on the other hand it’s an unusual sight to see so many SPD top members laughing in unison. But that does not lead to exuberance. Scholz limits himself to his always squeaky smile and waves to the audience. The motto is not to make triumphant gestures too early. But Klingbeil knows he doesn’t have to worry about his protégé. When it’s all over, it’ll be another 49 hours.

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