Crisis Chancellor To Step Down
Finally, Angela Dorothea Merkel (b. July 17, 1954) has decided to step down as the Chancellor of Germany! Merkel, who has been serving as Chancellor since 2005, has lost her popularity in the Western European country in recent times. Although there was no clear winner in German Federal Elections held on September 26 (2021), the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) took a narrow lead with 25.7% of the votes, followed by the bloc led by Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), with 24.1%, their lowest vote share. Meanwhile, the Greens managed to win 14.8% of votes, their best performance in a National Poll, and the liberal, pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) bagged 11.5%.
Merkel, who had announced her retirement from Politics ahead of the polls, shall always be remembered for her undisputed leadership, as she was the face of the CDU and Germany for quite some time. Experts are of the opinion that her decision to retire has created a vacuum both in the CDU leadership and in German Politics. Under the uncharismatic conservative Armin Laschet, it would be difficult for the CDU, which ruled 52 of the 72 post-war years of Germany, to run the Government. Olaf Scholz, who put the trailing Socialists in the lead, claimed victory and hinted that he would work with the Greens in the coming days. However, Laschet promised to make all possible efforts to ensure a CDU-led Government in Berlin. According to experts, it is quite natural that the Christian Democrats would try to lead the Ruling Coalition, despite suffering a consequential loss of nearly nine points.
Soon after the results were declared, 63-year-old Scholz said that the Germans wanted to see the Christian Democrats and the Christian Social Democrats in Opposition after 16 years. It may be noted that the Coalition Government has become a part of German Politics in the 21st Century. Since 2005, Merkel has led four Coalition Governments. While her second term was in partnership with the pro-market Free Democratic Party (FDP), other three terms experienced a GroKo or Grand Coalition between the CDU and the SPD. This time, the SPD has emerged as a marginal winner with 206 seats, while the CDU has won 196 seats, the Greens have bagged 118 seats, and the FDP has captured 92 seats. Hence, the Bundestag is all set to be unusually large with 735 members in 2021. This year, the Greens and the FDP shall be the King-makers, as these two parties have 210 seats, together.
Now, the Greens and the FDP will have to decide whether to back the CDU or the SPD… and, here, seemingly, lies the problem. Although the CDU and the SPD have got accustomed to Coalition Politics, the smaller parties lack that understanding. Hence, the Greens and the FDP would have to coordinate their policy preferences on the basis of their relative strengths while negotiating the coalition. Indeed, it would be a difficult task for them, as the Greens were in power in Berlin in 1998, with the SPD, for the last time. At that period of time, they had only 5% of votes.
Meanwhile, the DW online portal has stated that as Germany prepares for the post-Merkel era, the new Government would have to quickly focus on tackling illiberal tendencies in Central Europe. In an article published in DW on September 29, Bulgarian Political Scientist Ivan Krastev wrote that “the EU will have to learn how to survive in a world without Merkel. Could it be that a new Government in Berlin will usher in more changes to European Politics than on the German political scene? ‘Post-Merkel’ and ‘without Merkel’ are two very different beasts.”
In the absence of Merkel, according to Krastev, “We should expect that Berlin’s rhetoric regarding the violation of the Rule of Law in Poland and Hungary will become fiercer. Brussels has already made it clear that LGBT-free cities in Poland will not receive EU funding.” He stressed: “In turn, Hungary and Poland will step up their anti-Brussels and anti-German war of words. Supporters of Viktor Orban (Hungary) and PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski (Poland) may disagree that the Devil wears Prada, but they are convinced that she, the Devil, votes for the Greens or the Free Democrats in Germany. Given the challenge of how to deal with Central Europe, the new German Government should keep at least three things in mind: Liberal Values, East-West Divide in Europe and Cultural Wars (waged by Orban and Kaczynski).”
Political Experts have admitted that Merkel successfully changed Germany from another sick man of Europe to a superpower in the last 16 years. In its latest report, Eurostat has mentioned that a quarter (24.7%) of the EU’s entire GDP was generated by Germany before the outbreak of COVID-19 Pandemic in 2019. Now, it would be a challenge for Merkel’s successor to help Germany maintain that status. Experts believe that even without Merkel’s leadership, Germany shall remain Europe’s economic powerhouse and principal regional player. In fact, Germany’s Federal Elections results would be inspiring Europe’s Centre-Left. In case Scholz becomes Chancellor, he will join Centre-Left Heads of Governments in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Spain, Portugal and France. It seems that Norway, too, will soon get a Centre-Left Government.
For the next few weeks, the Global Focus shall be on Berlin as the Political future of Europe depends a lot on the changing scenario in Germany.
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