- Germany, Europe's largest economy, will held national elections next year
- Merkel's role in Europe has weakened and so has her position in Germany
- Whether she will run as her party's main candidate remains unanswered
- Despite recent criticism she seems to remain pivotal both at home and in the EU
Will Merkel still work here end of next year? Berlin's Bundeskanzleramt,
the German chancellor's office. Photo: iStock
By Clemens Bomsdorf
- Will Angela Merkel run as the main candidate of her Christian Democrats again?
- Will she and the party remain in power?
Clearly, we will have to wait until the elections are over to know the latter. But the first can be answered, and we'll probably know within the next couple of months.
Linked to this is the third question of whether, if somebody else takes the reins of power, Merkel will be able to remain chancellor until the day of the election.
It is very likely that we will see a decision regarding question number one soon. Merkel's CDU party is set to hold its congress December 5-7, where she will be either confirmed as chair or deposed in favour of another. Merkel has said that the party's chair should also run as candidate for chancellor.
As a matter of fact, all three questions can be speculated on even now. The possible answers given do not only say something about Merkel’s position within her party and Germany, but also about how her policies are received in her home country as well as in Europe.
In addition, of course, this means a great deal for the role Germany plays and can play in Europe, and therefore also about the state of the continent – both politically and economically.
(We will take a look at this in both this article and its upcoming sequel...)
Internationally, Merkel has over the years been heavily praised as well as harshly criticised – often for two causes:
- Her hard stance when it comes to financially supporting weak Southern European countries (despite Europe's sound economic position).
- Her positions on migration and refugee policy.
While criticism was (and is) in particular harsh in Eastern and Southern European countries such as Poland
, the view from the continent's traditional, more liberal core was/is more nuanced. Acclamation and disagreement sometimes, in fact, came from the same source.
Looking at influential media, for example, at the end of 2015 Merkel was named “Person of the Year” by Time Magazine
, just weeks after The Economist had crowned her “The indispensable European
”. But it was only a few short years ago in the summer of 2012 that The Economist blamed her and the German austerity policy for letting the world economy go down the tubes.
According to The New York Times' Allison Smale
she has become “more politically vulnerable than at any time since her early days in office, with implications that extend far beyond Germany’s borders.”
Though it is the German electorate who vote for the German parliament and hence decides who will run the country, it makes sense to start with Merkel’s international reputation when talking about her future (part one of this series). That is because her position in Germany is very much linked to how well-received she is among European leaders and how the public perceives her as dealing with the migration inflow (which is an issue abroad as well).
Getting ready to celebrate the Worldcup and elections.. Photo: iStock
A Merkel who is seen as "the indispensable European", to quote The Economist, of course has a better stance in her party and her home country as well. Despite all the criticism and other leaders’ aiming to sharpen their own profiles by criticising the German chancellor (such as this recent attempt by Italy’s Matteo Renzi
), she is still standing.
“German chancellor Angela Merkel is the longest-serving and by far the most influential national leader in Europe. She is the one giving directions in times of trouble, as now with Brexit or previously with the migration crisis,” says Federiga Bindi
, a senior fellow at the center for transatlantic relations at the Johns Hopkins school of advanced international studies.
Even those who might dislike (aspects of) Merkel's policy have to admit her central role, which gives her some support at home as well. Though this role has been weakened recently, there is neither any strong, organised group of European leaders opposing her nor any other potential head of government who could take over her role.
Her critics disagree on many points and lack political strength, while their home countries lack the economic power to take over the role of the primus inter pares within Europe.
However, Europe's current state and Merkel's position mean that it has become more difficult for her to find a majority for her policies, and hence she needs to compromise more.
That also makes her look slightly weaker before the German electorate.
Merkel has served for over a decade as German prime minister and
guess what — she's still standing (yeah, yeah, yeah!). Photo: iStock
— Edited by Martin O'Rourke
Clemens Bomsdorf is a consultant editor at Saxo Bank