German Social Democrats pick finance minister Scholz as chancellor candidate

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Scholz is Germany’s third most popular politician behind Merkel and one of her possible successors as CDU leader, Health Minister Jens Spahn.

The Social Democrats will be hoping that Scholz’s transformation, during the coroanvirus pandemic, from austere custodian of the public purse to free-spending paymaster in charge of a massive economic stimulus program, will bolster their support in next year’s election.

“Olaf Scholz’s nomination is a good decision at the right time,” Gerhard Schroeder, Germany’s last SPD chancellor, told the Handelsblatt newspaper. Schroeder left office in 2005 and has been a harsh critic of recent SPD leaders.

Scholz was nominated as chancellor candidate by the SPD co-leaders, Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans.

In what some saw as a recognition of the steep challenge ahead for the SPD, Walter-Borjans on Sunday conceded what had once been inconceivable – that alongside the Greens, the party would be open to govern in coalition with the Left party, heirs to the Communist Party of the former East Germany. (Reporting by Thomas Seythal and Thomas Escritt Editing by Michelle Martin and Gareth Jones)