De­spite set­backs, Merkel sur­viv­ing Ger­man vot­ing

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY SUMI SO­MASKANDA

BER­LIN | An­gela Merkel has had a hard year, bat­tling a bal­loon­ing debt cri­sis in Europe and grow­ing dis­con­tent at home, but many an­a­lysts say she will sur­vive as Ger­many’s chan­cel­lor.

Her coali­tion govern­ment con­tin­ued to take a beat­ing in state and lo­cal elec­tions — the lat­est in her own par­lia­men­tary district.

That blow hit es­pe­cially close to home for Mrs. Merkel, who made nine cam­paign ap­pear­ances in Meck­len­burg-Pomera­nia — a small, eco­nom­i­cally weak state in north­east­ern Ger­many, be­fore the Sept. 4 elec­tion.

“We have our work to do,” Mrs. Merkel said last week, ad­mit­ting that the party needs to act more de­ci­sively to win back vot­ers.

Her Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union has suf­fered a string of embarrassing de­feats in six state elec­tions this year, in­clud­ing los- ing its 58-year grip on the rich south­ern state of Baden-Wurt­tem­berg in March. The CDU looks set to take an­other drub­bing in Ber­lin’s lo­cal elec­tion later this month.

Mrs. Merkel’s suf­fered sharp losses in Meck­len­burg-Pomera­nia, scor­ing only 23 per­cent of the vote in a fall of nearly 6 per­cent­age points from 2006.

The op­po­si­tion So­cial Democrats (SPD) and the Greens took ad­van­tage, mak­ing ma­jor gains as they have done in other re­cent Ger­man state elec­tions.

Her govern­ment has strug­gled to man­age the fi­nan­cial cri­sis in the “eu­ro­zone,” the 17 coun­tries in the Euro­pean Union that use the euro as the national currency. Ber­lin’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in bail­ing out debt-laden Euro­pean coun­tries like Greece has put Mrs. Merkel at odds with the Ger­man pub­lic.

“She’s been crit­i­cized for lack­ing lead­er­ship and ori­en­ta­tion,” said Ralf Welt of dimap com­mu­ni­ca­tions, a po­lit­i­cal think tank that con­ducts re­search and sur­veys. A re­cent pop­u­lar­ity poll from dimap re­vealed that 54 per­cent of Ger­mans are dis­sat­is­fied with their chan­cel­lor.

She also has been sharply crit­i­cized by the op­po­si­tion and even mem­bers of her own party for waf­fling on is­sues from nu­clear pol­icy to the euro — a prob­lem that op­po­nents say has led to a sig­nif­i­cant loss of trust in govern­ment.

“Chan­cel­lor Merkel’s poli­cies are not clear,” said Han­sJoachim Hacker, an SPD par­lia­men­tar­ian from Meck­len­burgPomera­nia. “In the be­gin­ning of the cri­sis when it be­came clear Greece would need aid, she said Greece wouldn’t get any money. That was her pol­icy. Then the govern­ment agreed to two bailout pack­ages. That’s not good Euro­pean pol­i­tics. Ger­many needs Europe, just like Europe needs sol­i­dar­ity from Ger­many.”

Ger­many’s Con­sti­tu­tional Court ruled two weeks ago that the govern­ment broke no law by par­tic­i­pat­ing in the joint $152 bil­lion eu­ro­zone bailout.

How­ever, de­spite los­ing votes in her own back­yard, Mrs. Merkel and her re­la­tions with the rest of the world will re­main largely un­af­fected, many an­a­lysts say.

“I don’t think it’s as tragic as it is be­ing made out to be,” said Jur­gen Fal­ter, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Mainz who spe­cial­izes in Ger­man po­lit­i­cal par­ties. “Mrs. Merkel is still vi­tally im­por­tant in national pol­i­tics and that hasn’t changed.”

More trou­bling for Mrs. Merkel’s govern­ment, say an­a­lysts, are the losses of her cen­ter­right coali­tion part­ner, the Free Democrats (FDP). The pro-busi­ness party scored a dis­mal 2.7 per­cent in last week’s elec­tions, los­ing two-thirds of their sup­port and fail­ing to reach the min­i­mum thresh­old needed to be a part of the state leg­is­la­ture of Meck­len­burg-Pomera­nia.

“This de­feat tastes bit­ter,” said FDP Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Chris­tian Lind­ner, em­pha­siz­ing the need to re­turn to the party’s core is­sues like the econ­omy and the job mar­ket.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.