Robert Habeck and Christian Lindner are political competitors. Also because the two men are very similar in many ways. And yet one is currently much better received by the citizens than the other. This also has to do with the tank discount flop.
At first glance, Robert Habeck (Greens) and Christian Lindner (FDP) are often similar. Two middle-aged men with high political ambitions. One was the leader of his party until recently, the other still is. Both made great gains for their parties in the federal elections. And both are enjoying the limelight now.
For a while, Habeck and Lindner were eyeing the same ministerial post. However, because the FDP made the finance department a condition for agreeing to the traffic light, the Greens gave in. Accordingly, Lindner became Minister of Finance and Habeck Minister of Economic Affairs in autumn 2021. And Vice Chancellor.
Since then, a sometimes more, sometimes less visible cockfight has raged between the two. Because Habeck and Lindner consider themselves to be the more capable politicians. Of course, which of them is right is in the eye of the beholder. But the polls have been speaking for one thing for weeks: Robert Habeck. He and Annalena Baerbock are currently the most popular politicians in the country.
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The head of the FDP, on the other hand, had to put up with severe election defeats in the past few weeks. In the state elections in Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia, the Free Democrats each lost around half of the votes. In all likelihood, black and green are now in power in both federal states, while the FDP has been kicked out of government twice.
But that’s not all: the FDP chairman, who has been extremely popular for a long time, has also lost personal approval. In April, he slipped a full 10 percentage points in the polls in the ARD Germany trend – from 49 to 39 percent.
Habeck, on the other hand, gained from week to week. The more Chancellor Olaf Scholz came under criticism, the more popular Habeck became. He is currently in the ARD Germany trend together with Green colleague Baerbock with 60 percent approval. No politician is currently more popular.
So what does the Vice Chancellor do differently than Lindner?
Habeck likes to be thoughtful and communicates with a political style that many citizens are not familiar with in recent years: that of the error culture.
For example, when the Green Economics Minister negotiates liquid gas deals with a country like Qatar, which his own party is actually deeply critical of, the citizens don’t just let him get away with it because the energy crisis is raging. But also because Habeck stands in front of a camera in the desert covered with high-rise buildings and explains in understandable words why it is not so easy to do without energy from Russia.
The minister then also talks about his own discomfort and addresses exactly the inner conflict that many Germans are currently experiencing themselves. The desire to show solidarity with Ukraine is offset by the fear that the lights at home might somehow go out. This pragmatic, honest style of politics is well received by the population.
Lindner takes a different approach. He relies on bold promises – and power. For example, he wanted to be the first traffic light politician to announce relief and in March he pushed ahead with his proposal for a tank discount.
In the subsequent negotiations on the relief package, the coalition partners are said to have asked several times in Lindner’s absence whether this was really the best instrument to help. After all, it’s not even clear whether the discount actually goes down well with the driver. A state secretary from the Federal Chancellery is said to have asked at the time whether a control mechanism was planned so that in the end not only the oil companies collected the money. The participants of the meeting reported to FOCUS Online. The situation is said to have been visibly uncomfortable for the negotiators of the FDP. Because it became clear that the tank discount was not a well thought-out political measure, but a quick shot that was intended to make headlines.
Lindner insisted anyway. The result is, as feared in the aforementioned round of negotiations: fuel prices remain high. The multi-billion dollar subsidy on fuel prices obviously ends up in the pockets of the very rich oil multinationals instead of effectively relieving the burden on citizens.
The solution to this problem does not come from Lindner himself, but from his opponent Habeck of all people. At the weekend, he suggested tightening antitrust laws to force companies to lower fuel prices.
No wonder, then, that Habeck will be more popular than Lindner next month. The head of the FDP, on the other hand, has to be careful not to slide further down the list – and with him his party.
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