Olaf Scholz. Photo: DW
Olaf Scholz -Next German Chancellor. Photo: DW

The left-leaning Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Olaf Scholz is narrowly ahead in exit polls published after voting ended in Germany’s federal election, but the final result of the closely fought contest remains uncertain.

Projected results in Germany’s historic elections showed a razor-thin majority for Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party, but still a potentially tricky path to building a coalition government.

The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) were on track for 26.0% of the vote, ahead of 24.5% for Merkel's CDU/CSU conservative bloc, projections for broadcaster ZDF showed, but both groups believed they could lead the next government.

Who is Olaf Scholz - Biography

Olaf Scholz, was born in 14 June 1958, is a German politician serving as Federal Minister of Finance and Vice-Chancellor under Chancellor Angela Merkel since 14 March 2018.

He served as First Mayor of Hamburg from 7 March 2011 to 13 March 2018 and Acting Leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) from 13 February to 22 April 2018. A member of the Bundestag from 1998 to 2001 and again from 2002 to 2011, Scholz was Minister of the Interior of Hamburg under First Mayor Ortwin Runde from May to October 2001 and general secretary of his party under chairman and chancellor Gerhard Schröder from 2002 to 2004.

Olaf Scholz - Next German Chancellor: Quick Facts

Photo: Screenshot
Photo: Screenshot

He served as Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs in Merkel's first Grand Coalition from 2007 to 2009 and leader of the SPD in Hamburg from 2000 to 2004 and again from 2009 to 2018.

Together with former Brandenburg state representative Klara Geywitz, he received the most votes in the first round of the 2019 election for the newly introduced dual leadership of his party but lost 45% in the ensuing run-off to the winners Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken. On August 10, 2020, the SPD party executive nominated him as its chancellor candidate for the 2021 federal election in Germany.

Who is Olaf Scholz and Britta Ernst: Biography, Personal Life and Career
Olaf Scholz and his wife Britta Ernst

Olaf Scholz Early Life: Hamburg native and Merkel-friendly

Scholz, next German chancellor, was born and raised in Hamburg and has been mayor of the northern German city-state since 2011.

The 59-year-old became active in the SPD at a young age — joining the party's youth branch (Jusos) in 1975 when he was 17 years old. Scholz climbed the SPD's ladder to land top party posts both in Hamburg and at the federal level.

A former lawyer who specialized in employment law, Scholz gained popularity in the SPD after he led the party to victory in 2011 in Hamburg's state election and managed to hold on to power in 2015 after forming a coalition with the Green party.

Scholz is comfortable working with Merkel — something that was evident during several joint appearances the two made when Hamburg hosted the G20 summit in July. He also previously served as labor minister for two years under Merkel during her first grand coalition government from 2005 to 2009.

Who is Olaf Scholz's Wife - Britta Ernst Biography

Olaf Scholz, next German chancellor, is married with Britta Ernst (born 1961); they have no children. She is also a politician (SPD).

While Ernst has been putting her political focus on the next generation since 2017, Scholz has long been active as a voluntary representative for the Hamburg initiative “More Time for Children”.

Britta Ernst and Olaf Scholz live in Potsdam at the gates of Berlin.

From there they don't have to go far to their respective places of work.

Olaf Scholz has been married to Britta Ernst for more than 20 years. They are also a team politically: he SPD candidate for chancellor, she SPD state minister.

Both are active for the SPD, she as state minister for education, youth and sport, he as vice chancellor, federal finance minister and top candidate of the SPD in the federal election campaign in 2021.

However, that is not the only thing the two politicians have in common.

In an interview with the “Bunter”, Scholz spoke about marriage to Britta Ernst. "Britta is the love of my life, unchanged for so long. Offices come and go, love remains", he said.

When asked whether his love for his wife was about to achieve the greatest political success, the Vice-Chancellor replied: "Of course, I'll still sign that with an exclamation mark! "

Who is Olaf Scholz: Biography, Personal Life and Career
Olaf Scholz and his wife Britta Ernst

Olaf Scholz was born in Osnabrück and Britta Ernst in Hamburg, but both spent their childhood and youth in the Hanseatic city.

And like Olaf Scholz, Britta Ernst also took her first political steps there.

In theory at least, Ernst could become “First Lady” in autumn 2021.

Britta Ernst: Portrait of the wife of the top SPD candidate Olaf Scholz:

*Born on February 23, 1961 in Hamburg

*Made her Abitur in 1980, and in 1990 her degree in economics

*Member of the SPD since 1978

*From 1993 to 2003, first as a consultant, then as a research assistant, member of the urban development authority

*Politically active for the SPD since 1997

Ernst was initially active as the parliamentary managing director of the Hamburg SPD parliamentary group and parliamentary group manager of the SPD parliamentary group - now her political focus is on education, youth and sport. Since 2017, she has been the Brandenburg State Minister responsible for these topics in Cabinet III under Prime Minister Dietmar Woidke (SPD). She has also been a deputy member of the Federal Council since 2019.

In the Corona period, which is particularly demanding for families, and the associated distance learning, Ernst moved into focus as the responsible Minister for Education - especially since she will chair the Conference of Ministers of Education in 2021.

She told the German Association of Philologists that although she had good experiences with the students' personal responsibility, there was no substitute for the "direct contact between students and teachers, and that there were enough students who didn't manage their learning processes themselves can control. "

Olaf Scholz Career: A lawyer and then a politician

Photo: Financial Times
Photo: Financial Times

Scholz, next German chancellor, does not have an exciting biography behind him: a typical child from post-war West Germany, Scholz was born in 1958 in Osnabrück, but at the age of three the family moved to nearby Hamburg, where Olaf graduated from law school.

Although he joined the SPD at the age of 17, his more serious political career began after he turned 40. Since then, he has served as labor minister in Angela Merkel's first coalition government, while he was head of the city-state of Hamburg, before returning to government after the 2017 election.

According to his biographers, Scholz is characterized by qualities that are primarily valued in northern Germany among the so-called The Hanseis, descendants of the medieval economic and political creation of which the North Germans are still proud, and for which, as they are transferred to the rest of Germany, they look to the rest of the country "a little from above".

Scholz currently lives in Potsdam, a rich historical city near Berlin, home to many politically and economically powerful people who are overwhelmed by nearby Berlin.

He was mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018 but has also held the position of SPD chief whip, SPD deputy leader, and minister of labour and social affairs in Ms Merkel's first government, as well as his current roles.

During the pandemic, Mr Scholz won praise from the International Monetary Fund for his measures, having ditched a balanced budget at home to protect the German economy and helped create the EU's COVID recovery fund, despite Ms Merkel's initial resistance.

G20 criticism

Scholz faced a great deal of criticism for his handling of the G20 riots in Hamburg, which resulted in clashes between protesters and security forces as well as massive property damage across the city.

He publically apologized for the security mishaps, later saying that he would have resigned from his post if someone had died as a result of the riots.

Right-wing critics, however, thought the center-left mayor had been too lenient on those who carried out anti-capitalist violence.

Tension with former SPD head

Scholz's relationship with former SPD head Martin Schulz — who stepped down as party leader after abandoning his bid for foreign minister — had been strained since the party's large losses in last September's national election.

After the SPD gained just 20 percent of the vote in the 2017 election — the lowest in the party's postwar history — Scholz was one of the most outspoken critics of Schulz's leadership.

A Forsa Institute opinion poll in January showed the Hamburg mayor as the third most-liked politician in Germany — putting him far above Schulz.

Still, he's expected to maintain several of Schulz's campaign promises, particularly on strengthening the EU and tackling eurozone reform.

Olaf Scholz Net Worth

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Photo: Screenshot
Photo: Screenshot

Olaf Scholz's journey to Beat In The Race To Become Germany's Next Leader

Who is Olaf Scholz: Biography, Personal Life and Career
Olaf Scholz seems to have become the SPD's big selling point

Scholz's plan starts with the country's minimum wage. He vows to immediately raise it from 9.60 euros to 12 euros an hour, the equivalent of around $14 an hour — a pay raise for 10 million of Germany's lowest-paid citizens. He also aims to create more housing and make the economy a greener one.

But Scholz's two main rivals for chancellor have made similar promises. Observers think the difference is that Scholz has decades of experience at all levels of government, as well as a Rolodex to match. "He is kind of the identical twin of Joe Biden," says Heinrich Wefing, managing editor of the politics desk at one of Germany's largest newspapers, Die Zeit.

He calls Scholz a less chatty and gregarious version of Biden. "They are both men of the apparatus," says Wefing. "They are both centrists. They're institutionalists. They know how to get things done. And they know how to get a law passed. They know how to build consensus, they know how to build coalitions — and that is what he's best at."

Photo: Financial Times
Photo: Financial Times

Wefing agrees with Bartke that Scholz, as mayor of Hamburg, was able to execute his plan on providing more housing for city residents. But the editor says Scholz's tenure also exposed flaws inhis leadership. In 2017, when Hamburg was slated to host the Group of 20 summit, Scholz assured Merkel that it would be a safe and secure event. However, protests turned into riots that led to hundreds of injuries and more thanadozen arson attacks. Bartke and Wefing both say Scholz learned a lesson from the event, but that it tested the limits of his confidence.

The following year, Scholz became vice-chancellor and finance minister in Merkel's government; the Social Democrats are a junior partner co-governing with Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union party.

During the coronavirus pandemic, he has helped keep the economy afloat through a stimulus package that kept workers in their jobs through the country's furlough program, called kurzarbeit. Wefing says Scholz's steady hand through the pandemic has convinced voters that he's chancellor material. And the mistakes of his opponents have convinced voters that they're not.

In July, during a speech by Germany's president mourning the victims of floods, the chancellor candidate for Merkel's party, Armin Laschet, was caught on video laughing in the background. He apologized, but the gaffe contributed to an already plummeting popularity among voters.

Scholz's other main opponent, the Green party's Annalena Baerbock, enjoyed strong polling numbers in the spring, but as voters scrutinized her lack of government experience, they gradually lost interest.

That has left Scholz — a man who the parliamentarian Bartke says is the closest candidate in personality to Merkel. "I think the people are unhappy to lose Angela Merkel, because for 16 years, she was a symbol of stability," he says, a stability that he believes voters now see in the leadership of Scholz.

His campaign has exploited this resemblance: One of Scholz's campaign posters uses German's feminine form of the word "chancellor" to proclaim, tongue-in-cheek, Er kann Kanzlerin, or "He's got what it takes to be madame chancellor."

As finance minister, Scholz has won praise from the International Monetary Fund for his response to the coronavirus pandemic. During his 3-1/2-year tenure, Scholz has ditched balanced budgets at home and helped create the European Union's pandemic recovery fund, overcoming Merkel's initial resistance.
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