geopolitics-00382
Merkel in the Bundestag last week. Photo: DPA

 Five months before the Bundestag elections, the Christian Democratic Union (HDS) named Angela Merkel’s successor, party leader Armin Lachet. Rapidly gaining popularity, the “Greens” also decided on their face: the young and feminine – Annalena Burbock. If Lachet is ready to maintain a dialogue with Moscow, the victory of the representative of the “Greens” could be a disaster for Russian-German relations.
You can rely on it
Armin Lachet was supported by 31 deputies, nine voted for the head of the Christian Social Union (HSS), the Prime Minister of Bavaria Markus Söder, and six abstained.
Lashet headed the HDS in mid-January. For eight years he was one of the five vice-chairmen of the party, a faithful ally of Angela Merkel. Always supported the Chancellor. His help was especially useful during the migration crisis. Lachet advocated an open door policy, tolerance for migrants, as well as the consistent rapprochement of the European Union with Turkey. He was even called a “Turk”.
He moved away from Merkel only once, when against the background of the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the authorities decided to tighten the quarantine for the Easter holidays, which infuriated many Germans. “We can’t go on like this,” Lashet said. This also applies to what happens inside the HDS. The party will be difficult to win. Prolonged almost six months of lockdown, the failure of the elections in two federal states – Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, vaccination problems, corruption scandal – enough trouble.
Lashet also lost his political points because of the pandemic. In the spring of last year, he promised a quick lifting of quarantine, did not believe in the second wave. The reality turned out to be somewhat different. And then it turned out that the government of the federal state headed by him had signed a contract with the manufacturer of masks, on which his son works.

The HDS leader still believes that the party has a chance. But it is necessary to “remain a strong center”, not shifting to the left or to the right. Earlier, this principle invariably helped him.
According to Lachet, he was greatly influenced by his father, a miner. At the beginning of his career, he told his son, “It doesn’t matter where your comrades come from, what their origins are, what their appearance or religion is. Just explain to people that they can rely on you.”
A politician with the charisma of an accountant
Lašeta was described as a “politician with the charisma of a middle-ranking accountant”. He owes his career to connections at the top of the party, as well as to Angela Merkel personally. Biographers claim that the Lachet family are descendants of Emperor Charlemagne. On the other hand, he is the “people’s prime minister”: as head of North Rhine-Westphalia, he met with voters in bars, talked to them over a beer and generally ignored the official protocol.
He has a lot of political experience. A lawyer by education, he was a member of the city council of his hometown of Aachen, then worked in the Bundestag and the European Parliament.
Of all the candidates for the post of HDS leader, Lashet is the most moderate critic of Moscow. Actively supports the construction of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline, urging not to politicize the project, reiterates that “Russia is needed to address many international issues.” After the poisoning of the Violinists in Salisbury, he wrote on Twitter that Moscow’s guilt had not been proven and reproached London for its anti-Russian policy.

Lashet is a regular participant in the Russian-German forum “Petersburg Dialogue” and contributes to the development of economic ties with Russia. Sanctions, in his opinion, should be lifted, “as soon as the Minsk process begins to develop.” As for Crimea, he once said that, although Russia “violates international law,” it is necessary to be able to “look at everything through the eyes of a dialogue partner.”
The election of Lachet as the head of the HDS was received positively, Artem Sokolov, a researcher at the IMI MGIMO Center for European Studies, said in a speech with RIA Novosti. “It is considered moderately pro-Russian. Relations between Moscow and Berlin are so fundamental, multilevel, that the chancellor’s personality is important, but it does not define everything one hundred percent. Lashet strives for constructive dialogue. , – the Germanist explains.
Sportswoman and “talk show queen”
Annalena Burbock will lead the second most popular Soyuz-90 / Greens party in the elections. She was preferred to 51-year-old Habek, an experienced politician, as the Greens are very concerned about “gender equality”.
Forty-year-old Annalena claims that “the country needs a new beginning.” She has a good chance. According to opinion polls, the Greens lag behind the ruling HDS / HSS bloc by only three to five percent.
In five years, the party’s rating has grown two and a half times: from 8.9% (the result of the Bundestag elections in 2017) to 22-23%.

Burbock tries to avoid radical remarks so as not to push the voter away. She is considered a representative of the “realos”, advocating a moderate environmental policy.
As a child, she was professionally involved in sports – trampoline jumping. At university, she studied political science and public law, worked for a newspaper, and headed the office of a member of the European Parliament in Brussels, where she oversaw the EU’s relations with the former Soviet republics – Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.
She joined the party in 2005 and quickly gained notoriety because she often appeared on television. She was even nicknamed the “Queen Talk Show”. She advocates a speedy abandonment of coal energy, against “North Stream – 2” and harshly criticizes Russia.
But if Burbock becomes chancellor, the rhetoric will probably soften, says Artem Sokolov. “Being in the opposition and being in power are different things. It is critical of Moscow’s foreign policy, but the Greens have more anti-Russian speakers. there is room for cooperation. “
Political situation
If the elections to the Bundestag took place on Sunday, the ruling Social Democrats, as well as the Greens and the Liberals from the Free Democratic Party, created a “traffic light coalition” (in the colors of the symbols of the three parties), they would calmly push back. The post of chancellor would then be given to “Green” – as the most popular.

Another option that voters prefer is the coalition of the HDS / HSS bloc with the Greens. Then Burbock would probably get the post of foreign minister. The Greens have already been in the German government. From 1998 to 2005, they were part of a coalition with the SDPG, and the Foreign Ministry under Gerhard Schroeder was headed by Joschka Fischer.
The problem with this election campaign is that there are no bright leaders, says Alexander Kamkin, a leading researcher at the Center for German Studies at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “All such boring technocrats. Especially in HDS and SDPG. For example, Lashet – behind it neither obvious failures, nor breakthroughs”, – the Germanist argues. The situation is unpredictable, new coalitions may emerge.
“It is possible that the Germans will this time vote in retaliation for the HDS / HSS and the Social Democrats, the Greens in the west and the Alternatives for Germany in the east have a better chance,” the expert said.
According to opinion polls, the Germans would prefer a woman again as Chancellor – Burbock. However, she has little political experience. So the candidate from the “Greens” has to do a lot of work to convince voters of their competence.