A general federal election will take place in Germany on September 22nd. Will Merkel stay put as Europe’s dominant politician? She most probably will. Will she go on to become the leader “Europe so desperately needs” as reads the endorsement of The Economist? That’s another question.
At the moment, it is generally agreed that Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) will continue leading the next coalition. If the Free Democratic Party (FDP) manages to keep it’s numbers above the 5% mark necessary to re-enter parliament, Merkel’s government will continue on with FDP pro-business coalition partners. If the FDP loses any momentum the most probable coalition partners will be the Social Democrats, a centre-left sister party of the CDU. Polls show a vast majority of Germans would prefer the later.
Looking at the aftermath of the European crisis, it is difficult to identify a government that has survived. Merkel may continue to rule the stage and receive international praise but it would be foolish to ignore the German Euroskepticism behind the curtain. She may not have any greater plans regarding the EU. As Merkel has said in the past “Germans have done their homework” and to what extent the politician cares about the rest of Europeans is still unclear. Merkel remains popular at home, and is likely to remain in power mostly because of her refusal to quickly take sides when important matters are discussed. Merkel has done a very good job of protecting the German economy and the interests of her people. She may be a fence politician, accused of never taking a real stance on important issues, but nevertheless she remains very presidential in her approach. For example, Merkel being a trained physicist, her government changed the energy policies toward green technologies, sending electricity costs soaring after the events in 2011, Fukushima Japan. Merkel mentioned her view of nuclear energy had changed. It is unlikely that her veritable opinion ever changed on the subject of nuclear energy, but the decision was presidential. The people and the media have nicknamed her “Mutti”, Mother.
This excerpt from The Economist shows the high hopes some have for Mutti: “We believe Mrs. Merkel is the right person to lead her country and thus Europe,” “That is partly because of what she is: the world’s most politically gifted democrat and a far safer bet than her leftist opponents. It is also partly because of what we believe she could still become — the great leader Germany and Europe so desperately needs.”
Merkel may be better than a leftist coalition, however what is clear about the leftists is their pro-European position. Merkel is a conservative, and cannot be described as pro-European Union. If Merkel’s conservatives were not to lead the coalition, the Social Democrats would find themselves cooperating with The Green Party (leftist) and The Left Party (leftist). Other parties such as The Alternative for Germany (AfD) have a much clearer platform clearly stating they wish to do away with the Euro, the problem with the AfD is that it aims at the same voters that vote for Merkel. This party was founded in April 2013, aims at the middle class, and is mostly composed of professionals and economic experts.
The most surprising thing about this campaign is that issues are never discussed. It is a personality battle, and at this point, Merkel is the clear winner. She has sidelined all potential rivals within her party and is the most popular politician in Germany, and even Europe. It is her fourth general election as head of the conservative CDU. Her speeches throughout the campaign do not touch any of the important policy questions, the message is “Stick with ‘Mutty’, things are going well.” As polls show, it is unlikely that anything will really change in Germany in the next few years and perhaps Merkel will use this to take unpopular but necessary decisions.
– Mathieu Paul Dumont
Featured photo: World Economic Forum, Creative Commons, Flickr