BERLIN (Reuters) – German Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Sunday that opposition Greens candidate for chancellor Annalena Baerbock lacked political experience, describing herself as better placed to lead the world’s largest economy ‘Europe after the September 26 elections.
Scholz’s comments show how the German election campaign is heating up more than five months before the actual vote, which could also be seen in the continued attacks on conservative candidate Armin Laschet by his Bavarian rival Markus Soeder.
The Greens said last week that Baerbock would run for chancellor, the first time the left-wing Green Party has sought the highest post in its 40-year history.
Support for the Greens has grown over the past year to a few points close to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives. Two recent polls show that the Greens are overtaking the conservative CDU / CSU alliance.
Scholz, 62, a candidate for her center-left Social Democrats, the junior partner in Merkel’s ruling coalition, said the race was on despite her party lagging behind in third place in the polls.
“Germany is one of the largest and most prosperous industrial countries in the world. It should be led by someone who has experience in governance, who not only wants to govern, but who can actually do it, ”Scholz told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
“I am the candidate for Chancellor who has the experience and knowledge to do this job,” said Scholz.
Baerbock, 40, a former trampoline champion, has held no government office but promised voters a ‘new start’ with a focus on investing in education and digital and green technologies.
Baerbock told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that she would be tough on Russia and China if she became chancellor.
Merkel, who is resigning after 16 years in power, has refused to openly support CDU party leader Laschet, 60, who saw his Bavarian rival Soeder take up the challenge to land the Conservative alliance’s candidacy last week.
After the fierce leadership battle, support for the Tory bloc fell two points to 27%, which helped the Greens overtake the CDU / CSU alliance in a Kantar poll for Bild am Sonntag. The Greens jumped six points to 28%.
Scholz’s Social Democrats were in third place with 13%, followed by the far-right AfD with 10%, the business-friendly FDP with 9% and the leftist Die Linke with 7%.
Scholz said he expected the CDU / CSU bloc to remain weak and achieve an election result well below 30%, which would pave the way for a coalition without the Tories.
Laschet brushed aside further attacks from Soeder over the weekend in which the Bavarian prime minister accused Laschet of representing “old school” policies and a lack of will to modernize the country.
Laschet told the public broadcaster of Radio Bremen that Soeder’s comments made him laugh because it was Soeder’s CSU party that had repeatedly criticized Merkel for her centrist policies in recent years.
Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Edmund Blair and David Evans