Mercury (Hobart)

Auf wiedersehe­n to the ‘empress of Europe’


Germans will go to the polls this weekend, but don’t hold your breath for a result.

There will be no equivalent of the removal van turning up outside Downing Street or a quick trip to the Palace for an audience with the Queen.

Prepare instead for weeks or months of talks about forming a three-party coalition that can cobble together a majority in a government almost certain to be split six ways.

In a sense, the most important result was declared long before the first vote had been cast – Angela Merkel’s decision to step down after 16 years as chancellor leaves a void not just in Germany, but the EU.

“European summits without the ‘empress of Europe’ will probably feel like Agatha Christie’s Detective stories without Miss Marple,” the European Council on Foreign Relations said in a report published last week. The choice of who will succeed her still remains too close to call, but it could presage a change of direction in German politics that, given the country’s economic might, will be felt far beyond its borders.

Social Democrat candidate and vice-chancellor Olaf Scholz, 63, has built up a narrow lead in recent weeks, portraying himself as “Merkel’s heir” – which appears to be going down well with a consensus-loving electorate.

He and his party also have a clear vision of a different Germany, with a more activist role for the state, albeit in conjunctio­n with the private sector.

Mr Scholz’s rival, Armin Laschet, leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, follows in the conservati­ve “ordolibera­l” or social market economy tradition of Ludwig Erhard.

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