German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that she won’t be competing in the upcoming elections. This will mark an end to the Merkel-Era in Europe, creating a vacuum in German leadership and contributing to the rise of a nationalist, anti-immigrant wave in the region.
“At the next CDU [Christian Democratic Union] party conference in December in Hamburg, I will not put myself forward again as candidate for the CDU chair… Secondly, this fourth term is my last as German chancellor. At the federal election in 2021, I will not stand again as chancellor candidate, nor as a candidate for the Bundestag [federal parliament] and… I won’t seek any further political offices,” said Merkel to reporters at party headquarters in Berlin. (Al Jazeera)
While she has been in office for four terms, Merkel’s popularity with the public has been waning for the past months, especially over the issue of immigration. While Merkel insisted on accepting refugees from the Middle East as a policy for Germany, she also worked hard to make other European nations accept her open-door policy. The Chancellor is said to have decided on her leadership exit after smelling a huge loss of public confidence.
“We are witnessing a continuation of the pattern in place ever since Merkel’s mistakes in the 2015 migration crisis — the gradual but steady erosion of her political power. Rather than outright instability in Germany and Europe, it simply means a continuation of the current leadership vacuum,” according to Carsten Nickel, Managing Director at Teneo consultancy (The Epoch Times).
Merkel’s declaration has triggered a huge discussion on the future of the current coalition government. Some say that she is planning to end the CDU coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SDU) before the current 5-year term is up. Even if Merkel does not decide to end the coalition, the future of the current government remains uncertain.
If a Merkel-loyalist like Economy Minister Peter Altmaier is elected by the CDU, the coalition could continue with Merkel at the helm. However, if a critic like former parliamentary group leader Friedrich Merz or Spahn were elected, they could push for new elections soon.
“If Spahn or Merz become the successors, the CDU is in a better position to at least gain back voters from the [far-right] AfD camp… But if you look into the results from Hesse [Sunday], you will see the CDU lost more votes to the Greens,” Olaf Böhnke, an analyst at the independent think tank Das Progressive Zentrum, said to DW.
With Merkel gone from the leadership position, Germany might decide to elect someone who has a more pro-German outlook and strong views against the Middle-Eastern migration into Europe. In fact, this could help soothe relations between Germany and neighbors like Poland who have been at loggerheads over the issue.
“To this day, Merkel seeks to present Hungary, Poland and other resisters with two faits accomplis: that Germany can accept any numbers of migrants, and that Germany can and should use her power to force the rest of Europe to share the consequences, while pontificating about ‘European unity.’” (Srdja Trifkovic, Chronicles Magazine)
Her flawed legacy of letting in millions of migrants, who have gone on to increase crime rates, has resulted in surging anger among the local German population. This is one of the primary reasons nationalistic parties have risen in power in and around Germany.
With Merkel’s resignation as the Chairman of the CDU imminent, a new leader is expected to be elected during the party congress planned to be conducted on December 7-8, 2018.