Status: 09/11/2021 12:59 p.m.
This constituency has it all: In and around Potsdam, Scholz and Baerbock, two candidates for the Chancellery are competing against each other. The terrain is not easy – for neither of them.
Olaf Scholz is not known for insights into his emotional world. The SPD chancellor candidate has himself under control beyond recognition. From this point of view, it is remarkable when he rolls his eyes in annoyance. Scholz is standing with a loosely buttoned white shirt on a square in the Am Stern district of Potsdam. Here he has a conversation with the citizens after a series of interviews in which he was also asked about his competitor in this constituency.
These are questions that Scholz gets over and over again. Like how he looks at Annalena Baerbock or whether he could imagine her as a minister in his cabinet. Ultimately, it is up to the voters to decide, says Scholz. And at the same time doesn’t say anything with it. The answers after rolling your eyes are, as usual, factual. Scholz doesn’t show his cards. Except that he could well imagine a coalition with the Greens. Yes, there is a lot of overlap. And he is touched that so many voters currently trust him to be Chancellor. A bad word about his competitor? Nothing.
Duel of the peacemakers
When the Greens were still in the polls and sent their chancellor candidate impressively quietly into the race, a battle of the giants was on the horizon in constituency 61 in the capital’s suburbs. Several months and a few surveys later, the tranquil Schloss-Sanssouci constituency has shrunk to the scene of a friendly duel. In terms of content, Baerbock and Scholz have moved closer and closer together in trials and interviews. Intersections in social policy, dissent on climate protection issues. Both make no secret of the fact that they are with you and repeatedly emphasize what connects and less what divides.
In the RTL triumph, Scholz even spoke of an almost friendly relationship between the two. The tonality of the two looks as if they had already agreed to a common cause at an evening pub round in the Dutch quarter. The Union belonged to the opposition, Scholz teased recently at a panel discussion with Baerbock. He thinks it would be good if the SPD and the Greens formed a government.
The physical proximity of the candidates is already great. Scholz would only need ten minutes to get to Baerbock by bike. Born in Lower Saxony, she has lived with her family in Potsdam for years and was state chairwoman of the Brandenburg Greens. The ex-Hamburger Scholz has only lived here for a few years after he threw a political anchor in the Brandenburg SPD, but already speaks of himself as a Brandenburg citizen.
His wife Britta Ernst is Minister of Education here. Baerbock’s children go to school in Potsdam, the former state chairman of the Brandenburg Greens is well connected in the constituency. But it is questionable whether the local flavor pays off here. With a tailwind from the federal government, election analysts currently see the former Hamburg-based Scholz ahead. However, the constituency in the past has always been good for a surprise. And their competitors like the CDU woman Saskia Ludwig or the former FDP general secretary Linda Teuteberg have shown that they can win over voters here.
Posters for the candidate: Annalena Baerbock is running in constituency 61 Potsdam – Potsdam-Mittelmark II – Teltow-Fläming II as a direct candidate against, among others, the SPD candidate for Chancellor Scholz.
Constituency of Opportunities
Elections were often a neck-and-neck race: In the 2013 federal election, the CDU candidate Katherina Reiche narrowly won. In the last federal election again an SPD woman, closely followed by a CDU competitor. Baerbock, who has already competed here, recently even received fewer first votes than the AfD candidate.
In the 2019 state elections, a young Green politician caused a small sensation by getting the direct mandate here – the first time ever that a Green politician in Brandenburg was able to get a constituency directly.
For Baerbock, it would be almost a doubly painful defeat if she lost here, in an electoral district that now suits the Greens in many ways. However, the Bundestag constituency is larger than the Landtag constituency and also includes cities like Ludwigsfelde in the east, traditionally a workers’ town. Here the SPD should again have better chances.
Chancellor candidate Scholz at an election event in Potsdam: Not a bad word about competitor Baerbock.
Fight for direct entry
Both – Scholz and Baerbock – are number one on the state list. Your entry into the Bundestag is therefore more than likely. Despite this comfortable initial situation, both are willing – for symbolic reasons – to get the direct mandate. Winning the constituency directly and distancing oneself from competitors is both an incentive and an honor. Baerbock has rented a temporary citizens’ office in downtown Potsdam. One wall in it is papered with a huge portrait photo. Scholz, on the other hand, has his office in the SPD office in Brandenburg and relies more on on-site appointments than on walk-in customers.
Despite the extremely high deadline pressure and many tours through Germany, Scholz and Baerbock are noticeably often out and about in the constituency – even in areas where it could hurt. Scholz tries to score with experience and calm objectivity, with strengths that are less ascribed to his competitor by the Greens.
For example, when he was looking for a public talk in the Am Stern district, around 100 citizens came together on a Sunday lunchtime. Interest is limited, almost all windows of the high-rise buildings around the venue remain closed. A manageable number of people are interested in the fact that a potential chancellor is coming here. Many who are now listening are from a milieu that the SPD once annoyed with its social policy. But that no longer seems to be an issue today. Citizens are worried about the burdens caused by the energy transition, excessive taxes and the rights of the disabled.
Scholz answers as matter-of-factly as an accountant. He knows his way around, but after half an hour it starts to dusty thematically. It is questionable whether everyone can still follow, but they apparently do. In the end, some will say that they liked Scholz’s polite manner and that they are most likely to trust him in the Chancellery.
Baerbock, on the other hand, appears liberated and ready to switch to attack mode more strongly when performing like a Town Hall debate at the end of August on Potsdamer Bassinplatz. Against the SPD and against the Union anyway. It promotes a different school policy, a fairer distribution of wealth and a faster exit from lignite. The Greens were able to avoid new missteps like at the beginning of the campaign.
In surveys, the Greens values have leveled off at a level where the party has been before, perhaps at a level where it feels more comfortable. At times it seems as if a burden has been dropped, but now and again to be able to appoint the Chancellor. After all, there is someone in Potsdam who also wants to do the job. And he lives only ten minutes away by bike.