YesErmany’s next coalition government, which will be sworn in on Wednesday, will come with a line of new faces, a new set of policy priorities and a fresh dose of energy. It will also speak with a specific accent.
Olaf Scholz, the middle-left politician who will step into Angela Merkel’s shoes, is a man of the German North not only by upbringing but by voice. When the former mayor of Hamburg recently warned in parliament that Covid-19 was not yet beaten, he leaned into the fricatives typical of Germany’s second-largest city: Scholz uttered the word. did Defeated As Scene.
Meetings of their cabinets would be more likely to open with casual sighs Good morning From Bye Special Greetings to the States of the South. Scholz’s chief of staff, Wolfgang Schmidt, (also from Hamburg), the chancellor, Robert Habeck (from Plön in Schleswig Holstein), the foreign minister, Annalena Barbock, and the labor minister, Hubertus Heil, (both from Lower Saxony), round the table. And many prominent voices come from the northern third of the country.
Regional representation is of utmost importance in Germany’s decentralized political system and governments work hard to give each of the 16 federal states their fair share of seats of power in Berlin.
But the shift in equilibrium is already evident under Scholz. For one, his cabinet would be Bavaria’s first without a minister in the country’s post-war history. Germany’s largest and southernmost state ended up “all on the bench”, the general secretary of Bavaria’s ruling Christian Social Union grumbled this week.
In many ways the northward drift of German political power goes against the grain. The South dominates the country economically: it has most of the larger companies registered on the German Stock Exchange, provides homes to more start-ups, employs more IT professionals and registers more patents than the North. It reigns supreme in German football, where traditional northern clubs such as Werder Bremen and Hamburg SV have fallen into decline while Bayern Munich wins trophy after trophy.
But the center of gravity in politics has been quietly moving north ever since the seat of parliament was moved from Bonn to Berlin in the Rhineland. Scholz is the third consecutive northern chancellor, after Hamburg-born, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern-raised Merkel and Hanoverian Gerhard Schröder; The last four delegates have all come from northern states.
To an extent the strength of the North is a result of the weakness of the South and South-West, where the Conservative Party bloc is particularly prone to infighting. If the Christian Democratic Union overcomes its complicated relationship with its Bavarian sister-party, the Christian Social Union, the Bundestag may well have seen its CSU leader, Marcus Söder, sworn in as chancellor on Wednesday.
Tom Manwitz, a political scientist at the Federal University for Public Administration, said: “With internal party factionalism and the historic split between the CDU and CSU, the conservative bloc has a strategic disadvantage in the south of Germany.”
Nevertheless, accents play a surprisingly important role in German politics. Scholz’s speech, while still displaying the distinctive northern marker, is a far cry from the strong Hamburg dialect of his statue Helmut Schmidt. As with Merkel and Schröder, most Germans have to convert their pronunciation to Standard German or . would be likely to be recognized as standard germanPoliticians south of the so-called Urdingen line, while giving him the quality of everyman, distinguishing “high” and “low” dialects of German, may struggle to achieve.
“We are increasingly seeing that the North German type of politicians who speak in High German gain greater acceptance across the country,” said Jürgen Falter, a political scientist at the University of Mainz. “Southern politicians, in contrast, often struggle to shake the wind of provincialism.”
The last two contenders who fell short in their race for the top post were Social Democrat Martin Schulz in 2017 and Merkel’s designated successor in this September’s election, Armin Laschet, both from Aachen, close to the old power center of the Republic of Bonn. , and sounded that way while they were talking.
His popular appeal became a boon, either at the state level or in the European Parliament, as he sought to storm the national stage, exposing the conservatism of the cheerful but reckless carnival jester: after being filmed laughing at a joke during a Lachette’s ratings took a dive gracefully. A sad incident in a town affected by the sudden summer floods.
Michael Elmentler, Professor of Linguistics at the University of Kiel, said: “After World War II, there was a series of strong German leaders whose regional accents were accepted as part of their identity, ranging from Konrad Adenauer and Ludwig Erhard. By Kurt Kissinger. and Helmut Cole.
“However, what we are seeing now is that tolerance towards regional dialects is decreasing. If a German politician today spoke like Adenauer, people would laugh at him.
Linguists such as Elmentaler have charted the disappearance of regional dialects from not only the German national parliament but also town halls and television networks, where the language of news presenters has become more casual but more standardized. Linguistic quirks associated with specific cities or towns have made way for wider “regions”.
If Scholz’s northern identity helped him claim the chancellery, would it also shape his management of the country?
“There is a powerful cliché of a certain kind of North German statesman, the Hansit,” Historian Christoph Strup of Hamburg’s Research Center for Contemporary History said. ,He is regarded as a calm behaviorist, polite in his public appearance, with a freedom of mind appropriate for a city state, and with a knack for finding compromise. ,
Whereas large states such as North Rhine-Westphalia have separate power centres, whose interests may be difficult to reconcile by a single politician, Hamburg has “the proximity of politics, business and the media which can make it easier to build consensus”, Stroop said.
“Scholz certainly lives up to many Hanseatic clichés,” said Stroop—in both a negative and a positive sense. “He proved himself capable of putting together a red-green alliance that was nothing short of conflicts. He managed to find decisive and practical solutions to the problems of festivities in the city, such as the over-budget Elbphilharmonie concert hall or housing shortage.
Hamburg’s town hall is adjacent to the city’s Chamber of Commerce, with a skyway bridge connecting the two buildings – a symbol, some say, of the closeness between political and business interests, which has created a culture of backroom deals. Running for Hamburg mayorship in 2011, Scholz recruited just…