Angela Merkel, from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), stated last Sunday that she will run for re-election in 2017. She has always emphasised that party chairmanship and chancellorship are supposed to be executed in a personal union. Thus, this announcement does not come as a surprise. But taking into consideration the recent federal state elections – with a CDU that lost a decent amount of percentage points in five federate states – winning while at the same time keeping the CDU on its conservative course seems like a daunting task.
2016 formed Germany’s political landscape in a way nobody would ever have expected. Right-wing populism is flooding society, people unashamedly utilise Third Reich paroles and claim nationalism over philanthropism. The oh-so-poor people cannot identify with the tendencies in their beloved CDU anymore and hence switch over to the Alternative for Germany (AfD) – which wouldn’t even exist without the refugee crisis. I think that Merkel turned the tides and lost backup when she stated in September 2015 that if she now has to start apologising for showing kindness to people in a desperate situation: “that is not my country”.
Person over party
According to a recent Emnid-survey, 55 percent of the German population would like to see Merkel re-elected. But it’s obviously all about the person rather than the party. The latter was nearly torn internally, due to Merkel’s politics in terms of the refugee crisis – which was criticised sharply by the CDU’s sister party Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU). Horst Seehofer, Bavaria’s Minister-President, publically stated that he could not support Merkel’s claim “We can do it”, since if he did it he would not live up to his oath-bound responsibility.
However, I have to partially agree that shining figures like Helmut Schmidt belong to the past and we are supposed to go with what we know. According to the aforementioned survey, only 21 percent see Sigmar Gabriel as a potential chancellor. His TTIP policy has in my opinion killed any hopes he had had to run for this office.
The reserved chancellor
Merkel’s chances in terms of her personal appearance thus seem to justify a run for a fourth term – also due to a lack of actual alternatives in her party. Still, exactly this party failed nationwide, especially this year. With losses of up to twelve percentage points (Baden-Württemberg) and exceptional wins for the right-wing-populist AfD, I feel gloomy about the future. Even if the CDU somehow managed to make good results, which party will she form a coalition with?
I was surprised by the extent that Merkel turned her back on her party. She ignored objections that were raised and drove a political course that could not have been executed better by any left-wing party. However, as Ludwig Greven on “Zeit online” stated, she almost always acts rationally and might run the risk of losing heavily in a debate that is determined by emotions in our post-factual era.