One year of Olaf Scholz: This is what the Germans think of their Chancellor

Is he wise, cautious, slow, or arrogant? Although many Germans still find it difficult to hear from their chancellor a year after the elections, his image is increasingly turning to his disadvantage.

Partly thanks to his dry restraint, which meant that he said little wrong during the election campaign, Olaf Scholz and his party were able to win narrowly. He said nothing wrong, seemed like the safest choice, the smallest change after 16 years Merkel.

But since the war in Ukraine, problems have been piling up in Germany. The government faces difficult choices about arms supplies, sanctions and high energy bills. It is precisely the way in which the Chancellor communicates that is now often bad, not least among journalists.

The male Merkel

โ€œHe wanted to be the male Merkel. But then the war came and he became restless,โ€ says Lars Haider. The journalist has been following Scholz for ten years, met him more than 150 times and wrote a biography about him. โ€œThat was a Scholz we didn‘t know yet. He wasn’t sure what to do. What happens if I deliver weapons to Ukraine now?โ€

That reticence was not in vain. โ€œWe now know that Scholz was concerned that Putin might attack Germany or NATO. And that he didn‘t want to go down in history as the chancellor who led a war by negligence.โ€

But it also came to him under criticism. It gave the impression of a chancellor who was afraid to decide, did not want to take the lead. On the other hand, there is also a group of Germans, especially among the supporters of Scholz party the SPD, who prefer not to send (heavy) weapons at all. โ€œThe line between thoughtfulness and indecision is thin,โ€ says Haider.

At the

same time, he is convinced of himself. โ€œA know-it-all. And most of the time, he actually knows more than others. The question is: does he listen to others?โ€ According to Haider. His impression: โ€œGenerally not.โ€

The

fact that he can get very annoyed when he doesn’t like questions from journalists doesn‘t help him. A common example is the press conference after the G7 summit chaired by the German Chancellor last June.

Scholz was asked by a journalist if he could say specifically what the security promises to Ukraine entailed. โ€œYes,โ€ he replied. โ€œI could do that.โ€ And after a long silence and chuckle: โ€œThat’s it.โ€

Robot politician

That seems arrogant and rude, says Tina Hassel. As chief of the parliamentary editors of the German public broadcaster ARD, she regularly conducts major interviews with the Chancellor. โ€œIs that the respect you were talking about so much during the election campaign?โ€ she explained to him earlier.

โ€œWhen I talk about respect, I mean hard-working cleaners and factory workers,โ€ says Scholz. โ€œWhat‘s more,โ€ he says, โ€œit was the third time I’ve received that questionโ€. Dry answers to repeated questions: it earned him the nickname the โ€œScholz-o-Matโ€, the robot politician.

โ€œHe says he doesn‘t need hobbies to relax because he doesn’t get tense. He is always calm and under control,โ€ says Haider. But that also has a downside. โ€œThat comes across as a bit numb. But he believes that a chancellor should not show feelings. I‘m a chancellor, not a circus director, he once said.โ€

Much more popular recently was the German Vice Chancellor and Minister of Economic Affairs, Robert Habeck. He appears on the assembly line in self-recorded videos to explain the complicated and also painful choices the government has to make about gas reserves and the nationalization of energy companies. Within Scholz’s party, they mockingly call him ‘Erklรคrbรคr’, explanatory bear, and by the way, also a figure in a German comedy sketch.

Dissatisfied

Now that the government has to persuade the population to save considerable energy due to the energy crisis, Habeck doesn‘t feel too bad about giving savings tips either. When Scholz is then asked in an interview if he has any tips, his answer is short: โ€œNo.โ€

That’s also his Hamburg humour, says Hamburger Haider. โ€œBut I can imagine that they don‘t understand that in the rest of Germany and the world.โ€

Hassel sees a big difference between how the Chancellor is viewed inside and outside the government. โ€œThe government parties themselves say: the chancellor is leading, but in the background. Only that is not perceived as such.โ€

In any case, Scholz’s appreciation has plummeted sharply in the polls. While before the war, a majority thought he did his job well, a recent poll shows that 62 percent of Germans are dissatisfied with the chancellor.