In these ‘in­se­cure times,’ Merkel to seek 4th term

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES | NATION & WORLD - By An­thony Faiola and Stephanie Kirch­ner

BER­LIN — Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel on Sun­day an­nounced her in­ten­tion to seek a fourth term in of­fice.

Merkel, 62, is Europe’s most in­flu­en­tial leader, a po­lit­i­cal cen­trist in the vein of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, her close and long­time ally. Her stature and diplo­matic clout — along with her strong stance on equal­ity and tol­er­ance — have led ob­servers to call her a po­ten­tial coun­ter­point to ris­ing na­tion­al­ism and pop­ulism on both sides of the At­lantic.

Merkel on Sun­day said she was flat­tered by those call­ing for her to as­sume the global man­tle of lib­eral democ­racy af­ter Obama’s de­par­ture. But she also called it “grotesque” and “ab­surd” to as­sume that one per­son can make a dif­fer­ence in a rapidly chang­ing world.

Speak­ing about a global sit­u­a­tion that is “re­align­ing” af­ter Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion, par­tic­u­larly in re­gard to Rus­sia, she said, “No per­son alone, not even the most ex­pe­ri­enced, can turn things to good in Ger­many, Europe and the world, es­pe­cially not a chan­cel­lor of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Ger­many.”

Nev­er­the­less, Merkel said, she had made a de­ci­sion to run again af­ter “end­less de­lib­er­a­tion,” in part to work in fa­vor of po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue that is not char­ac­ter­ized by “hate.” She seemed to sug­gest no other can­di­date could serve as a match for these “in­se­cure times.”

“Peo­ple would have lit­tle un­der­stand­ing if I would not again bring to bear all the gifts and tal­ents which were given to me to do my duty for Ger­many,” she said at the party head­quar­ters of her cen­ter­right Chris­tian Democrats in Ber­lin.

By merely an­nounc­ing, Merkel be­comes the early fa­vorite if not a shoe-in to win next year’s vote, a tri­umph that would make her Ger­many’s long­est serv­ing leader since Hel­mut Kohl presided over Ger­man re­uni­fi­ca­tion and the end of the Cold War.

But the me­thod­i­cal Merkel will also find her­self swim­ming against the tide of resur­gent na­tion­al­ism, in­clud­ing in Ger­many. Al­though buoyed by this na­tion’s vast eco­nomic strength, she faces a se­ri­ous back­lash from her de­ci­sion last year to take in nearly a mil­lion refugees from the Mid­dle East. She must also con­tend with voter fa­tigue with po­lit­i­cal elites and in­cum­bents.

Merkel, a prag­ma­tist raised in for­mer com­mu­nist East Ger­many, was a trained physi­cist who be­came Europe’s de­cider. She has guided Ger­many to the height of its post- World War II clout, but has done so in a non­threat­en­ing way that has al­most al­ways em­pha­sized con­sen­sus build­ing.

Merkel is no stranger to cri­sis — hav­ing, for bet­ter or worse, shoul­dered the brunt of Europe’s han­dling of the Greek debt cri­sis, as well as the stand­off with Moscow over its in­ter­ven­tion in Ukraine. But vic­tory would mean dif­fi­cult new chal­lenges for Merkel — most im­por­tantly how to move for­ward with Bri­tain’s vote to exit from the Euro­pean Union with­out tear­ing the bloc apart.

And if Ma­rine Le Pen, from France’s far-right Na­tional Front, stages an up­set in next year’s elec­tions in France, Merkel would find her­self — and her cen­trist pol­i­tics — more re­gion­ally iso­lated than ever be­fore.

On the plus side, Merkel still en­joys en­vi­able ap­proval rat­ings of be­tween 55 and 59 per­cent at home. But her pop­u­lar­ity is no longer at the strato­spheric lev­els seen years ago.

Al­though she has since tough­ened her stance on mi­grants, she has taken a hit over her han­dling of the refugee cri­sis.

The po­lit­i­cal fall­out has played into the hands of the anti- es­tab­lish­ment, far-right Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many, an up­start party that has racked up wins in key lo­cal elec­tions this year.

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