Meet the man who could turn German politics upside down

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Mr Scholz consistently votes 30%, long before his party – indeed, he was confident enough to say at the Berlin rally: “If you want Olaf Scholz as chancellor, you have to vote SPD”.

But it was also a message to his own party rivals about the coming power struggle if he wins.

Because Mr Scholz may be the SPD’s candidate for chancellor, but he is not the party leader. And while he has positioned himself as a Merkelian centrist who can be trusted with Germany’s finances, his party has been taken over by a hard left movement at Momentum.

At the rally in Berlin this week, all was smiles as Mr Scholz stood alongside Kevin Kühnert, but in reality they are bitter rivals fighting for control of the party. It was Mr Kühnert, 32, who orchestrated the hard-left takeover of the SPD two years ago, nearly destroying Mr Scholz’s career in the process.

When Mr Scholz ran for the leadership of the SPD, Mr Kühnert mobilized the youth wing of the party to defeat him, handing over the leadership to Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken, a little-known couple from the left fringe of the left.

But it is Mr Kühnert, now installed as deputy leader, who is the real power of the party – and he is a very different political creature from Mr Scholz.

He called for major German companies such as BMW to be seized from their owners and “collectivized”, and said there should be “no room” for private owners in Germany.

“The distribution of profits must be democratically controlled. It excludes a capitalist owner, ”he said last year.

He continues to dress like a student despite being in his 30s and relinquishing control of the party’s youth wing: at the rally in Berlin, he wore jeans, sneakers and a loose fleece , and it was very thatched.

Mr Scholz only stands as Chancellor at the request of Mr Kühnert and his allies. When they realized that their type of far-left socialism was unpopular with voters and they couldn’t win an election, they called him back to give the party a softer face.

It was the equivalent of Jeremy Corbyn winning the Labor leadership to ask Andy Burnham to run for number 10.

If Mr Scholz wins an unlikely victory for the SPD, chances are it will spark a new power struggle within the party – and as chancellor he would be in a stronger position.

But for now, while he campaigns, it is Mr Kühnert and his allies who still control the party, and a vote for Mr Scholz on September 26 will also be a vote for them.


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