3 contrasting candidates seek chancellery in German election

From left, Chancellor candidates Olaf Scholz (SPD), Annalena Baerbock (Green Party) and Armin Laschet (CDU) stand in the TV studio in Berlin, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. With two weeks left before Germany’s national election, the three candidates for chancellorship are facing off Sunday in the second of three televised election debates. (Michael Kappeler/Pool via AP)
Caption
From left, Chancellor candidates Olaf Scholz (SPD), Annalena Baerbock (Green Party) and Armin Laschet (CDU) stand in the TV studio in Berlin, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. With two weeks left before Germany’s national election, the three candidates for chancellorship are facing off Sunday in the second of three televised election debates. (Michael Kappeler/Pool via AP)

Credit: Michael Kappeler

Credit: Michael Kappeler

Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job

BERLIN (AP) — Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country's two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn't seek a fifth four-year term. That set up the first election since West Germany's inaugural vote, in 1949, in which there is no incumbent seeking re-election.

The center-left Social Democrats already picked their candidate, Olaf Scholz, in August 2020. The Greens nominated Annalena Baerbock in March. Armin Laschet emerged as the candidate of Merkel's center-right Union bloc in April after a bruising internal battle.

OLAF SCHOLZ, 63

Scholz is currently finance minister and vice chancellor, the latest in a string of top posts that have allowed him to tout his experience.

He has a terse, no-nonsense style typical of his home city of Hamburg, where he once worked as a lawyer. He's unflappable and unshakably self-confident, but no master of rhetoric: He once earned the nickname “Scholzomat” for what critics said was a habit of constantly repeating the same phrases regardless of the question.

He served a turbulent stint as the Social Democrats' general secretary in the early 2000s, as then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder struggled with dissent over welfare-state trims and economic reforms.

Scholz first served in the national government from 2007-9 as Merkel's labor minister, during the global financial crisis. Germany kept down unemployment, notably by using a government-backed salary support program to keep people on companies' payrolls. The same device served it well during the coronavirus pandemic.

Scholz became Hamburg's mayor in 2011. He hosted the 2017 Group of 20 summit, remembered largely for widespread rioting by hard-left protesters. Scholz had previously dismissed worries about the event.

The following year, he was elevated to the No. 2 job in Merkel's government after his party reluctantly ditched a pledge to go into opposition. As finance minister, Scholz was a driving force behind moves to place a global minimum tax of at least 15% on large companies and led efforts to cushion the pandemic's financial impact. But he also drew criticism over the collapse last year of payment processing company Wirecard.

Scholz ran for the Social Democrats' leadership in 2019 but was spurned by members in favor of a left-leaning duo. Still, the long-struggling party had no hesitation in turning to him as its candidate to succeed Merkel.

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ANNALENA BAERBOCK, 40

By far the youngest contender, Baerbock is also the only one with no government experience. She said when she was nominated: "I stand for renewal, others stand for the status quo.”

Baerbock studied political science and international law in Hamburg and London, and has been a lawmaker in Germany's national parliament since 2013. A successful trampolinist in her youth, she has said that sport taught her “the courage to keep pushing my limits, try new things.”

She and Robert Habeck, who is also on the traditionally left-leaning party's centrist wing, have led the Greens since early 2018. Under the unusually harmonious duo, the party has largely buried its left-right divisions and seen its poll ratings climb. The two leaders decided in March that Baerbock would make its first run for the chancellery.

A native of western Germany, Baerbock has been based for years in the rural eastern state of Brandenburg, where her party entered the regional government in 2019.

Baerbock didn't fare well under intense scrutiny early in this year's campaign. She had to correct details in a resume and belatedly declared payments from her party, which she says she wasn’t immediately aware had to be declared, to parliamentary authorities.

A flap followed over allegations that she copied from others in a hastily put-together new book. Baerbock denied any wrongdoing but said she would have done better to use a list of sources.

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ARMIN LASCHET, 60

Laschet has been the governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state, Germany's most populous, since dislodging a center-left regional government in 2017. His supporters often point to that success in a traditional stronghold of the left.

A miner's son, Laschet still lives in his native city of Aachen, on the border with Belgium and the Netherlands. He says that growing up in the heart of the continent made him a convinced European.

He has had an up-and-down political career, joining the German parliament in 1994 but losing his seat in 1998. From 1999-2005, he was a member of the European Parliament, before becoming his state's minister for the integration of immigrants — the first such position in Germany. He won the leadership of his party in North Rhine-Westphalia at the second attempt in 2012.

Laschet is largely a centrist in Merkel's mold, backing her welcoming stance toward refugees and other migrants. Still, he has been keener than the outgoing chancellor to relax restrictions during the pandemic and is treading a fine line between offering continuity and promising renewal.

He won the leadership of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party in January, beating conservative darling Friedrich Merz in a contest delayed repeatedly by the pandemic. In April, he outmaneuvered Bavarian governor Markus Soeder, who had much better poll ratings, to claim the nomination to run for chancellor after a lengthy standoff.

Laschet has a jovial image. He has frequently been seen in Carnival outfits and last year won the “Order Against Brutal Seriousness,” an honor bestowed annually on celebrities who display a sense of humor. But that trait hurt him after deadly floods in his home state in July, when he was seen laughing in the background as Germany's president delivered solemn remarks.

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Follow AP's coverage of Germany's election at https://apnews.com/hub/germany-election

FILE - In this Aug. 10, 2020 file photo, German Finance Minister and chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz, center, and the Social Democratic Party leaders Saskia Esken, right, und Norbert Walter-Borjans, left, attend a news conference in Berlin, Germany. Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job. Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)
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FILE - In this Aug. 10, 2020 file photo, German Finance Minister and chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz, center, and the Social Democratic Party leaders Saskia Esken, right, und Norbert Walter-Borjans, left, attend a news conference in Berlin, Germany. Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job. Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Credit: Markus Schreiber

Armin Laschet, Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia, left, and Olaf Scholz, Federal Minister of Finance, give a press conference in Stolberg, Germany, Tuesday, Aug.3, 2021. The two candidates for chancellor took a look at the situation and the clean-up work after the floods. (Marius Becker/DPA via AP, Pool)
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Armin Laschet, Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia, left, and Olaf Scholz, Federal Minister of Finance, give a press conference in Stolberg, Germany, Tuesday, Aug.3, 2021. The two candidates for chancellor took a look at the situation and the clean-up work after the floods. (Marius Becker/DPA via AP, Pool)

Credit: Marius Becker

Credit: Marius Becker

FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2021 file photo, Olaf Scholz (SPD), his party's top candidate in the upcoming federal election, visits a public viewing of the SPD in the bar "Strandsalon" after the ARD election arena for the federal election in Lubbock, Germany .Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job. Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. (Axel Heimken/dpa via AP, File)
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FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2021 file photo, Olaf Scholz (SPD), his party's top candidate in the upcoming federal election, visits a public viewing of the SPD in the bar "Strandsalon" after the ARD election arena for the federal election in Lubbock, Germany .Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job. Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. (Axel Heimken/dpa via AP, File)

Credit: Axel Heimken

Credit: Axel Heimken

FILE - In this June 12, 2021 file photo, Germany's Green Party co-chairwoman Annalena Baerbock delivers a speech after beeing nominated as the party's chancellor candidate during a party convention of the Green Party in Berlin, Germany. Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job. Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)
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FILE - In this June 12, 2021 file photo, Germany's Green Party co-chairwoman Annalena Baerbock delivers a speech after beeing nominated as the party's chancellor candidate during a party convention of the Green Party in Berlin, Germany. Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job. Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

Credit: Michael Sohn

Credit: Michael Sohn

FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2021 file photo, Annalena Baerbock, chancellor candidate and co-chairwoman of the Green party, gestures to Robert Habeck, co-chairman of the Greens, at the beginning of the Green party convention in Leipzig, Germany. Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job. Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer, File)
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FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2021 file photo, Annalena Baerbock, chancellor candidate and co-chairwoman of the Green party, gestures to Robert Habeck, co-chairman of the Greens, at the beginning of the Green party convention in Leipzig, Germany. Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job. Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer, File)

Credit: Jens Meyer

Credit: Jens Meyer

FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2021 file photo, the candidate for chancellor of the German Green party, Annalena Baerbock, speaks during an election campaign event in Halle near Leipzig, Germany. Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job. Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. (Jan Woitas/dpa via AP, File)
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FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2021 file photo, the candidate for chancellor of the German Green party, Annalena Baerbock, speaks during an election campaign event in Halle near Leipzig, Germany. Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job. Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. (Jan Woitas/dpa via AP, File)

Credit: Jan Woitas

Credit: Jan Woitas

FILE - In this Thursday June 24, 2021 file photo,German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, welcomes the top candidates for the upcoming national elections Annalena Baerbock, right, of the Green Party and Armin Laschet, center, of Christian Democratic Union's prior to a session of the German parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany. Climate change is among the top concerns for Germans going into this year's national election that will determine who replaces Angela Merkel as Chancellor. But while voters admit they are worried about the state of the planet, especially after last the deadly floods that hit Germany in July, many fear the cost of backing the environmentalist Green party that's campaigned strongest for meeting the Paris climate accord's goals. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP, file)
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FILE - In this Thursday June 24, 2021 file photo,German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, welcomes the top candidates for the upcoming national elections Annalena Baerbock, right, of the Green Party and Armin Laschet, center, of Christian Democratic Union's prior to a session of the German parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany. Climate change is among the top concerns for Germans going into this year's national election that will determine who replaces Angela Merkel as Chancellor. But while voters admit they are worried about the state of the planet, especially after last the deadly floods that hit Germany in July, many fear the cost of backing the environmentalist Green party that's campaigned strongest for meeting the Paris climate accord's goals. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP, file)

Credit: Kay Nietfeld

Credit: Kay Nietfeld

FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2018 file photo, governor and chancellor candidate Armin Laschet takes part at the carnival procession in Cologne, Germany. Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job. Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. (Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa via AP, File)
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FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2018 file photo, governor and chancellor candidate Armin Laschet takes part at the carnival procession in Cologne, Germany. Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job. Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. (Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa via AP, File)

Credit: Rolf Vennenbernd

Credit: Rolf Vennenbernd

FILE - In this Thursday, April 27, 2017 file photo Christian Democrats candidate Armin Laschet and German chancellor Angela Merkel wave to supporters during a state election campaign in Oelde, Germany. Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right bloc is kicking off its official campaign for Germany’s Sept. 26 election amid a worrying sag in poll ratings and increasing criticism of Merkel’s would-be successor, Armin Laschet. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
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FILE - In this Thursday, April 27, 2017 file photo Christian Democrats candidate Armin Laschet and German chancellor Angela Merkel wave to supporters during a state election campaign in Oelde, Germany. Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right bloc is kicking off its official campaign for Germany’s Sept. 26 election amid a worrying sag in poll ratings and increasing criticism of Merkel’s would-be successor, Armin Laschet. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

Credit: Martin Meissner

Credit: Martin Meissner

FILE - In this Sept. 11, 2021 file photo, Armin Laschet, CDU/CSU candidate for chancellor, stands on stage after his speech at the CSU party conference in Nuremberg, Germany. Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job. Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. (Daniel Karmann/dpa via AP, File)
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FILE - In this Sept. 11, 2021 file photo, Armin Laschet, CDU/CSU candidate for chancellor, stands on stage after his speech at the CSU party conference in Nuremberg, Germany. Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job. Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. (Daniel Karmann/dpa via AP, File)

Credit: Daniel Karmann

Credit: Daniel Karmann

FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2021 file photo, Armin Laschet, CDU chairman and the Union's top candidate for the Bundestag elections, presents the Union's "Agenda for a Secure Germany" at a press conference in Berlin. Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job. Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. (Michael Kappeler/dpa via AP, File)
Caption
FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2021 file photo, Armin Laschet, CDU chairman and the Union's top candidate for the Bundestag elections, presents the Union's "Agenda for a Secure Germany" at a press conference in Berlin. Germany is seeing its first three-way contest for the chancellery, with the environmentalist Greens joining the country’s two traditional big parties in fielding a candidate for the top job. Chancellor Angela Merkel said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term. (Michael Kappeler/dpa via AP, File)

Credit: Michael Kappeler

Credit: Michael Kappeler

From left, Chancellor candidates Olaf Scholz (SPD), Annalena Baerbock (Green Party) and Armin Laschet (CDU) stand in the TV studio in Berlin, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. With two weeks left before Germany’s national election, the three candidates for chancellorship are facing off Sunday in the second of three televised election debates. (Michael Kappeler/Pool via AP)
Caption
From left, Chancellor candidates Olaf Scholz (SPD), Annalena Baerbock (Green Party) and Armin Laschet (CDU) stand in the TV studio in Berlin, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. With two weeks left before Germany’s national election, the three candidates for chancellorship are facing off Sunday in the second of three televised election debates. (Michael Kappeler/Pool via AP)

Credit: Michael Kappeler

Credit: Michael Kappeler