(CNN) – Olaf Scholz might have some great shoes to fill.
Germany’s economy minister is most likely to form a new government in the European country after the Social Democratic Party (SPD), its political power, narrowly won the Parliamentary elections from this Sunday.
While the narrow result means Schulz is unsure of becoming Germany’s next chancellor, he is in the strongest position to start coalition talks with the Greens, which received 14.8% of the vote, and the liberal Free Democratic Party, which won. 11.5% of the vote.
Olaf Schultz, “pragmatic and calm” politician
Schulz styled himself as a pragmatic politician with the ability to take on great responsibilities. In fact, their political style is no different from that of Merkel: the two are similar in many ways, despite belonging to rival parties.
“He presents himself as a calm, measured and resolute man,” said Corina Horst, a member of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) in Brussels.
As a moderate, Horst said, Schultz is an exception within his party. He added that “the leaders of the Social Democratic Party are mostly left-leaning and did not support him at first. Therefore, we still do not know who will gather around him and who will influence his leadership style.”
Horst’s colleague and deputy director of the GMF’s Berlin office, Sudha David Welbe, said this moderation is another characteristic that Schulz shares with Merkel.
“She has always ruled from the center and I think he will also try to do that if he becomes an adviser, but it will also depend, of course, on what the coalition parties ask,” he said.
Long history of cooperation with Angela Merkel
The 63-year-old – a lifelong SPD member – was born in what was then West Germany, a detail that sets him apart from Merkel, who grew up in East Germany.
Schulz served as Minister of Labor and Social Affairs in Merkel’s first coalition government in the late 2000s. In 2011, he was elected mayor of Hamburg, a position he held – with high levels of support – until 2018.
Since then, he has served as Vice-Chancellor and Finance Minister in Merkel’s grand coalition government, a powerful position in German national politics.
His profile was taken to a higher level when he oversaw Germany’s generous coronavirus compensation programs for businesses, employees and those who lost income from quarantine during the pandemic.
It was the right hand [de Merkel] When it comes to running the country for the past four years … this was Merkel’s second, but she has tremendous power within the German government, as well as in Europe [donde] Represents Germany when it comes to euro policies,” said David Welp.
Not known outside Germany
Unlike Merkel, who became a household name around the world during her long tenure, Schulz is not well known abroad, outside of Brussels political circles.
He said on Monday that forming a stronger and more sovereign European Union, as well as working on the good relationship between Germany and the United States, would be his main foreign policy goals if he became chancellor.
He added that as the world “gets more dangerous,” democratic countries must cooperate. “It’s important that we work together, even if we have struggles over one issue or the other,” he said.
Schulz has also had his share of political problems in the past.
Scholz, exalkade Hamburg
As mayor of Hamburg, he was criticized for his mishandling of the violent protests that unfolded during the G-20 meeting hosted by his city in 2017.
Anarchy broke out in Hamburg during the summit and hundreds of policemen were injured in clashes with protesters. Schulz underestimated the potential risks of the protests, blaming it on the city’s unpreparedness.
As talks begin over the new coalition, Schulz will try to woo the Greens and the Free Democratic Party, but those negotiations could go on for months.
Until then, it remains unclear what kind of chancellor Schultz will be.
“It will be a change because Merkel will not be there,” Horst said, before adding, “But I doubt it will be a major change.”
Contributed by Frederic Bletgen, Sugam Pocharrell, Jennifer Deaton, and Helen Reagan.