World needs Merkel now more than ever

Chang­ing po­lit­i­cal land­scape has forced the Ger­man chan­cel­lor to re­sign by 2021

Gulf News - - The Views -

On Mon­day, Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel in­di­cated that she would be step­ping aside be­fore the na­tional elec­tions set for 2021, for the first time giv­ing her na­tion a clear mes­sage that it would have to pick a new leader — and di­rec­tion — since she took over in 2005. Merkel’s an­nounce­ment is be­ing driven pri­mar­ily by the chang­ing po­lit­i­cal land­scape in Ger­many, where the Chris­tian Demo­crat Union (CDU) she has led since 2000 has suf­fered a se­ries of alarm­ing set­backs in provin­cial polls since late Septem­ber.

The CDU and its sis­ter party in Bavaria, the CSU, have seen voter sup­port plum­met, and the most re­cent elec­tions in the prov­ince of Hesse — home to the fi­nan­cial cen­tre of Frank­furt that is key to Ger­many’s fis­cal sta­bil­ity and econ­omy — saw sup­port for Merkel’s party re­duced by 10 per cent. The CDU and the So­cial Democrats are be­ing squeezed by Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) whose anti-Is­lamic and neo-fas­cist views are gain­ing pop­ulist sup­port, while on the left, the Greens are resur­gent as more vot­ers seek to place the environment and pro­gres­sive poli­cies ahead of those of­fered by Merkel’s coali­tion.

But be­fore her po­lit­i­cal crit­ics write off Merkel, there is a re­al­ity and legacy that can­not be tar­nished: She re­mains on course to be Ger­many’s long­est-serv­ing chan­cel­lor in both the Weimar Re­pub­lic and post-Sec­ond World War pe­ri­ods, and has now led her party for 18 years. Those feats alone speak of her re­mark­able re­silience and po­lit­i­cal stay­ing power.

Her de­ci­sion still means that she was a win­ner in fed­eral elec­tions in 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2017 — and she had said pre­vi­ously that she would al­ways de­cide the time of her leav­ing.

Her pru­dent po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic poli­cies have set Ger­many on course as the pow­er­house of the Euro­pean Union and a leader on the world stage — both in diplo­matic and eco­nomic terms. At the height of the refugee cri­sis, Merkel be­came a bea­con for those who be­lieved in hope and hu­man­ity when she opened Ger­many’s doors to more than a mil­lion des­per­ate and des­o­late refugees.

At the EU level, Merkel has sin­gle-hand­edly saved the euro, the com­mon cur­rency used by 19 of the 28 EU states, and set the union on a course of fis­cal re­form, stronger for the fu­ture. She is a be­liever in the Euro­pean project and com­mit­ted to mak­ing sure the con­ti­nent re­mains united de­spite its de­trac­tors. Hav­ing lived in a Ger­many di­vided by an Iron Cur­tain, Merkel is un­com­pro­mis­ing on the prin­ci­ples of free­dom that are at the very core of EU val­ues. The de­fender of lib­eral democ­racy shall be sorely missed.

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