Merkel to seek fourth term Will also run for party’s chair­woman

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BERLIN:

An­gela Merkel will seek a fourth term as Ger­many’s chan­cel­lor in gen­eral elec­tions next year, the Ger­man news agency dpa re­ported yes­ter­day. Dpa, cit­ing sources at the Berlin head­quar­ters of Merkel’s Chris­tian Demo­crat party, re­ported that the 62-yearold chan­cel­lor also will run to be re-elected as the party’s chair­woman when it holds its na­tional con­ven­tion next month.

Merkel is ex­pected to de­clare her can­di­dacy for chan­cel­lor at a press con­fer­ence at the party’s head­quar­ters later yes­ter­day. A physi­cist by train­ing, Merkel be­came Ger­many’s first fe­male head of gov­ern­ment in 2005. She also is the first leader of a re­united Ger­many to have grown up un­der com­mu­nism in the for­mer East Ger­many.

If she wins next year and serves the en­tire four-year term, Merkel would match her one-time men­tor Hel­mut Kohl’s post-war record of 16 years in of­fice. Re­peat­edly named “The World’s Most Pow­er­ful Woman” by Forbes mag­a­zine, Merkel also has been sug­gested by some as the last pow­er­ful de­fender of lib­eral val­ues in the West fol­low­ing Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion as the next US pres­i­dent.

60 per­cent pro-Merkel

Nearly 60 per­cent of Ger­mans sur­veyed in a re­cent poll said they wanted Merkel to run for of­fice again, Man­fred Guell­ner, the head of the Forsa polling agency, said. “In these dif­fi­cult times, Merkel is a pil­lar of sta­bil­ity,” Guell­ner told The Associated Press. “Peo­ple have the feel­ing she rep­re­sents Ger­man in­ter­ests well abroad.”

While she’s never been de­scribed as a vi­sion­ary or earned much praise for stir­ring speeches, Merkel has won re­spect for be­ing tough, shrewd and doggedly tack­ling prob­lems. Since be­com­ing chan­cel­lor, she’s dealt with sev­eral in­ter­na­tional crises, in­clud­ing the Eu­ro­zone debt cri­sis in 2008-09 for which she bro­kered com­pro­mises among frac­tious Euro­pean Union lead­ers. She has been a strong ad­vo­cate of ef­forts to com­bat cli­mate change, and in 2011 abruptly ac­cel­er­ated the shut­down of Ger­many’s nu­clear power plants fol­low­ing the melt­downs at Ja­pan’s Fukushima plant.

Un­re­solved diplo­matic chal­lenges in­clude Europe’s re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia, the fu­ture of Ukraine, au­to­cratic de­vel­op­ments in Turkey, the on­go­ing war in Syria and ne­go­ti­a­tions over Bri­tain’s exit from the Euro­pean Union.

Merkel also needs to brace her­self for the pop­ulist wave sweep­ing both the United States and Europe, where elec­tions next year could see a far-right politi­cian be­come pres­i­dent of France.

Do­mes­ti­cally, the na­tion­al­ist Al­ter­ative for Ger­many, or AfD, could prove to be one of the biggest stum­bling blocks to her re-elec­tion. The pop­ulist party, which is now rep­re­sented in 10 state par­lia­ments, has ag­gres­sively cam­paigned against Merkel de­ci­sion to wel­come an es­ti­mated 890,000 mi­grants into the Ger­many last year and in elec­tions in the east­ern state of Meck­len­burg-West­ern Pomera­nia ear­lier this year, Merkel’s party, the Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union, came in third be­hind the Al­liance for Ger­many. Ac­cord­ing to re­cent polls, the AfD would win around 10 per­cent of the vote if gen­eral elec­tions were to be held now.

Merkel, the old­est of three chil­dren and the daugh­ter of a Protes­tant pas­tor, en­tered politics in her mid-30s af­ter work­ing as a physi­cist be­hind the Iron Cur­tain. She served as min­is­ter for women and fam­i­lies in Kohl’s first post-re­uni­fi­ca­tion Cabi­net in the 1990s and then also as an en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter.

In the be­gin­ning of her po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, she was of­ten un­der­es­ti­mated by her mostly male, Catholic, West Ger­man party com­pan­ions who some­times re­ferred to her con­de­scend­ingly as “Kohl’s girl.” But in the end, she elim­i­nated her ri­vals with lots of tac­ti­cal skill and sheer luck to make it all the way to the top in 2005.

In Ger­many, Merkel is some­times re­ferred to as “Mutti,” or “mom,” de­spite be­ing known for a prag­matic, ra­tio­nal style of gov­ern­ing. While Merkel of­ten ap­pears re­served and even stiff in pub­lic, she has tried in past cam­paigns to show a more hu­man side. She opened up about her fa­vorite pas­times out­side politics, which in­clude bak­ing plum cake for her hus­band, the pub­lic­ity-shy chem­istry pro­fes­sor Joachim Sauer, and spend­ing week­ends at a lit­tle cabin out­side Berlin.

If Merkel wins and serves out a fourth term, she wouldn’t just equal Kohl’s record ten­ure but over­take conservative icon Kon­rad Ade­nauer, who served just over 14 years as chan­cel­lor from 1949-1963. “I can see how Merkel has this per­sonal am­bi­tion to show the peo­ple that she, who used to be such an out­sider when she first en­tered politics as an East Ger­man and a woman, made it all the way,” Gero Neuge­bauer, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Berlin’s Free University, said. A date has not yet been set for the elec­tion, but they will take place some­time be­tween Au­gust 23 and Oc­to­ber 22. — AP

BERLIN: In this Feb. 24, 2016 file photo Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel at­tends the weekly cabi­net meet­ing of the Ger­man gov­ern­ment at the chan­cellery. — AP

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