Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrat candidate running to become Germany's new chancellor, has laid out his conditions for forming a coalition government ahead of next week’s national election.
Scholz told Bild am Sonntag weekly that if he becomes the country’s new chancellor, his coalition government will raise the national minimum wage to €12 ($14.2) per hour.
“Nearly 10 million employees will get a pay increase. And I also guarantee that the pension level will remain stable and the retirement age will not rise further,” he said.
Scholz, who is leading in the latest opinion polls, underlined that these pledges will be their main conditions for any coalition talks after the election.
He also promised tax relief for lower- and middle-income households and insisted that the rich should pay higher taxes.
The environmentalist Greens and the socialist Left Party, two potential coalition partners of the Social Democrats, are also campaigning for higher taxes on the super-rich, and an increase to the national minimum wage.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and the liberal Free Democrats on the other hand have opposed tax hikes, warning that this could undermine the economy and force companies to shift their production abroad. Both parties are also critical of Social Democrat Party’s pledge to raise the minimum wage.
Scholz leading in latest polls
German voters will elect a new parliament on Sept. 26, and the result will determine who will succeed Merkel as the chancellor since she is not running for another term.
Scholz is leading in the latest opinion polls, but conservative leader Armin Laschet is still hopeful that his CDU/CSU bloc will win the elections, as surveys show that many voters are still undecided.
According to a new poll by INSA, Social Democrats are predicted to receive 26% of the votes, five points ahead of the Christian Democrats at 21%.
The poll, which was published on Saturday, put support for the environmentalist Greens at 15%, while the Free Democrats were polled at 12%, and the far-right Alternative for Germany at 11%.
The Left Party was only polled at 6% in the same survey.
While the Social Democrats are leading in most recent surveys, they are far from winning a governing majority, and Scholz will need at least one coalition partner even if his party wins the election.
Possible government scenarios discussed in media include the continuation of the current "grand coalition" between the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, or a three-way coalition including the Greens, the liberal Free Democrats, or the Left Party./aa