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Merkel says ‘huge difference’ between her and vice-Chancellor Scholz

Germany's outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday distanced herself from Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, saying there was "a huge difference" between her and the centre-left candidate seeking to take her crown.

Merkel says 'huge difference' between her and vice-Chancellor Scholz
Angela Merkel and Olaf Scholz after a cabinet meeting in 2020. Photo: dpa/dpa Pool | Michael Kappeler

Less than a month before a September 26th general election, Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservatives are slipping in opinion polls while Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD) have unexpectedly taken the lead in a race still seen as wide open.

Germans do not directly elect their chancellor but surveys show Scholz would now be the favourite if they did – while the conservatives’ pick, Armin Laschet, has fallen behind after a string of gaffes.

“With me as chancellor there would never be a coalition with the (far-left) Linke, and whether this can be said of Olaf Scholz or not remains open,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin.

“So in that regard, there’s simply a huge difference for the future of Germany between me and him.”

Scholz, who is also the country’s vice chancellor, is presenting himself as the stability candidate and the natural heir to Merkel’s legacy despite hailing from a rival party.

He has even copied the famous “Merkel rhombus” hand gesture, pressing his thumbs and fingers into a diamond shape the same way the chancellor does.

Surveys suggest the September ballot could result in a three-way coalition government.

While the popular Green party would be a logical partner in a possible SPD-led coalition, Scholz has come under fire for not explicitly ruling out a tie-up with the far-left Die Linke party, which opposes the NATO military alliance.

Conservative politicians have accused Scholz of riding on Merkel’s coat-tails.

Bavarian premier Markus Söder from the CSU party welcomed Merkel’s pushback on Tuesday, saying she could not have been clearer.

“Everyone knows that Olaf Scholz wants to move to the left,” Söder said.

Merkel herself is bowing out of politics after 16 years as chancellor.

SEE ALSO: Olaf Scholz – a safe pair of hands who wants Merkel’s job

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POLITICS

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Germany's investments in defence in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine will transform it into the biggest contributor to NATO in Europe, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Alongside the United States, Germany is “certainly making the largest contribution” to NATO, Scholz said in an interview with the ARD broadcaster.

Speaking at the close of a summit of leaders from the Group of Seven rich democracies, Scholz said Germany was in the process of creating “the largest conventional army within the NATO framework in Europe”.

Days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Scholz announced a 100-billion-euro ($105-billion) fund to beef up Germany’s military defences and offset decades of chronic underfunding.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Bundestag approves €100 billion fund to beef up defences

He also promised to meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of GDP on defence, answering years of criticism from close allies that Berlin was failing to contribute enough to the alliance.

Russia’s invasion had led to a renewed conviction “that we should spend more money on defence”, Scholz said.

“We will spend an average of around 70 to 80 billion euros a year on defence over the next few years,” he said, meaning “Germany is the country that invests the most in this”.

Scholz’s announcement in February was seen as a major policy shift, upending Germany’s traditionally cautious approach to defence as a result of its post-war guilt.

Germany had steadily reduced the size of its army since the end of the Cold War from around 500,000 at the time of reunification in 1990 to just 200,000.

NATO allies are from Tuesday gathering in Madrid for a summit, where the United States is expected to announce new long-term military deployments across Europe.

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