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Germany, to a new era!

MerkelScholz
©EPA-EFE/CLEMENS BILAN   |   German Minister of Finance and Social Democratic Party (SPD), top candidate for the federal elections Olaf Scholz (R), delivers a speech next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) during during a session of the German parliament 'Bundestag' in Berlin, Germany, 07 September 2021.

„Angie, Angie
Ain't it time we said goodbye? Yeah”

 The Rolling Stones, Angie 

On September 26, 2021, the Germans go to the polls. An extremely difficult choice after 16 years with Angela Merkel at the helm of the country. A choice on which not only the future of Germany, but also that of the EU depends. The imprint left by Mutti, as the Germans have nicknamed Angela Merkel, will not make the mission of the future chancellor easy. The nearly two decades have not been easy at all, but Germany's first woman chancellor has managed to stay in power and, most importantly, impose her views domestically and internationally.

The pastor’s daughter in the orbit of Helmut Kohl

I say that it is not an easy choice for the Germans, thinking only of the fact that Angela Merkel is the politician who managed in 4 mandates to actually reunite Germany. Her name led to the creation of a new verb in German: MERKELN, used for a person who knows how to keep their promises.

The fact that Angela Merkel grew up in the spirit of Christian values, due to her father, who was a pastor, but in the communist east of Germany, certainly contributed to the formation of her character.

There is no point now in giving a history lesson to explain why Germany was separated after World War II. Federal Germany was the US’s partner and ruled by a democratic regime, and the eastern part, the GDR, the German Democratic Republic, was a totalitarian communist state in the orbit of the former USSR.

Merkel grew up under this communist regime, being totally disinterested in anything related to politics in the GDR. When the Berlin Wall fell, she was working, and only then did politics begin to become interesting for the young physicist with a doctorate in quantum chemistry.

Shortly after the reunification of Germany, political and social life was extremely turbulent and new political movements were emerging. Angela Merkel would become the spokesperson for one of them. It was the launch pad to the CDU. There she met Helmut Kohl, Chancellor of Germany, with three terms in office, who saw in her the future of the Christian Democrats, and history has shown us that he was not wrong. Kohl eventually left the scene due to problems with illegal party funding, and Angela Merkel, although considered a pupil of Helmut Kohl, publicly asked him to resign. A strategy that secured her in 2000 the position of president of CDU, and 5 years later that of chancellor. And she became the first woman in the history of the country to lead the German executive.

The chancellor that saved Germany and the EU

Few probably remember that, in 2005, the German economy was almost on the rocks, and society was more divided than ever, with the differences between East and West becoming increasingly pressing. Although she was often criticized for lacking vision, her structure as a scientist helped Merkel see there where others couldn’t. A first problem was that the CDU / CSU bloc was too conservative, so the natural step was to bring the party to the center of the political chessboard. In other words, she began an extensive process of modernizing Germany by abandoning the ultra-conservative attitude, which allowed her to approve same-sex marriages and radically change the nuclear policy after the Fukushima tragedy.

“The Merkel Style”, that of letting her opponents exhaust themselves in endless debates, brought stability to both Germany and the European Union. During the 2008 financial crisis, Greece was on the verge of being excluded from the Eurozone, with dramatic effects for the European economy. At the G20 summit in Cannes, Merkel was the one who strongly supported all the financial arrangements that saved the Greek state. And the Germans did not agree with her at all back then, saying that Berlin should not throw the money collected from their taxes on a country that was just spending.

„If the Euro fails, Europe fails, and that cannot be good for Germany either”, Merkel said.

From a historical perspective, this episode will be considered Merkel's most important legacy because she then managed to keep the euro area intact and Europe united.

One of the most “severe” crises the Merkel administration has gone through is the so-called “migrant crisis” of 2015 when the German chancellor opened the borders for refugees. A decision that subsequently influenced the response of a Europe besieged by hundreds of thousands of migrants. It was a risk that the politician assumed and that cost the party in the next elections, in 2017, 65 seats in the Bundestag. Some say that by moving the CDU / CSU bloc to the center of the political chessboard, she made room for the far-right AFD, which entered parliament with a violent anti-immigration speech. That did not mean a total rejection of her centrist approach. It is normal for a politician's movements to be assessed and criticized more harshly domestically.

Germany has several important parties and a political system that does not allow any of them to dominate the political scene. It is unusual for a single party to hold the majority, so in order to be able to elect a chancellor and form a government, the party with the most votes must ally with other parties. An alliance of the CDU / CSU bloc with the Social Democrats made it possible to place Angela Merkel in the chancellor’s seat in 2005. She ruled with them twice.

Angela Merkel has been a Chancellor for 16 years and with that she has broken any record. She dealt with 4 American presidents and 6 British prime ministers, and with the Kremlin leader, Vladimir Putin, she has often had tense discussions. Angela Merkel is one of the few world leaders who has some leverage over Vladimir Putin. It’s no small thing to break down language barriers in a discussion with the Kremlin leader, as Angela Merkel is known to speak Russian and Putin is fluent in German. But at the same time, the German chancellor has been able to be a friend to the Americans all these years and to be a formidable partner of the American presidents in global affairs, except for Donald Trump.

But going back to the relationship with Russia, perhaps the most poisoned legacy left by her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, is the Nord Stream project that the former Social Democratic chancellor is now pastoring in the Russian’s yard. It is a huge gas pipeline that connects Russia to Germany. The project is now being fast tracked, 16 years after its birth on paper and the Russians can no longer wait for it to become operational, if possible, before the German elections. There are many controversies related to this gas pipeline that Angela Merkel has never liked. In August, the two met in Moscow, and although Vladimir Putin greeted Angela Merkel with flowers, the discussion was not at all courteous. The conviction of dissident Alexei Navalny, the annexation of Crimea, Nord Stream 2, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran were the main topics of discussion. And that's all the press could find out.

The battle for post-Merkel Germany

The battle is now being fought at home. In Germany. With the image in mind of a leader who has brought stability, able to negotiate anything with anyone and who has raised the Germans’ living standard, it is not surprising that the choice will be a very difficult one to make. After the failure with Annegret Kramp Karrenbauer, who the Christian Democrats hoped would become the new Merkel, but who surprisingly forged a regional alliance with the far right AFD, which cost her not only her position, but her political career, the Christian Democrats were desperately seeking to find somebody that would at least resemble Angela Merkel.

The solution found bears the name of Armin Laschet, a politician who comes from the conservative wing of the CDU, who lacks charisma, and who proposes a green Germany, trying, perhaps, to attract the greens in a potential alliance even before the election. But the offer of the Social Democrats expressed through the spearhead Olaf Scholz is not to be neglected either, especially in times of pandemic, as he comes with an offer for social welfare. He is also credited with the Social Democrats' better ranking as compared to CDU. And this has happened for the first time in 16 years. At the end of last month, one of the few electoral debates took place. The Social Democrats understood from the meetings with the electorate that there was no point in looking for an SPD version of Merkel, so, with that plan in mind, Olaf Scholz came into the limelight.  He torpedoed his opponents with pragmatic answers to issues triggered by the pandemic, for example. But there is something else remarkable here. Scholz and the green candidate seem to agree on several issues, including on raising the minimum wage from 9.19 to 12 euros per hour, increasing the child allowance and granting the right to vote from the age of 16.

In all these polls, however, the greens remain standing at around 20 percent. And because I mentioned before the Nord Stream 2 project, well, stopping it is one of the electoral promises of this party. As the opinion polls now show, the press is already dreaming of a future alliance of the Greens with the Social Democrats, but the two parties have diametrically opposed views with regard to environmental issues. Here, too, the Greens overlap perfectly with the CDU's electoral platform.

I do not rule out pre-election games, but I think it is premature to draw a conclusion on the composition of the future Bundestag. One can imagine, for example, that the Russians and the Chinese would be happy with a center power in Berlin, but with a softer leader. And this, obviously for commercial reasons as well. But things will not be clarified until all the votes have been counted. Only then will we know if Germany is moving forward with Laschet or Scholz.

 

 

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  • On September 26, 2021, the Germans go to the polls. An extremely difficult choice after 16 years with Angela Merkel at the helm of the country. A choice on which not only the future of Germany, but also that of the EU depends. The imprint left by Mutti, as the Germans have nicknamed Angela Merkel, will not make the mission of the future chancellor easy. The nearly two decades have not been easy at all, but Germany's first woman chancellor has managed to stay in power and, most importantly, impose her views domestically and internationally.
  • In 2005, the German economy was almost on the rocks, and society was more divided than ever, with the differences between East and West becoming increasingly pressing. Although she was often criticized for lacking vision, her structure as a scientist helped Merkel see there where others couldn’t. A first problem was that the CDU / CSU bloc was too conservative, so the natural step was to bring the party to the center of the political chessboard. In other words, she began an extensive process of modernizing Germany by abandoning the ultra-conservative attitude, which allowed her to approve same-sex marriages and radically change the nuclear policy after the Fukushima tragedy.
  • Angela Merkel has been a Chancellor for 16 years and with that she has broken any record. She dealt with 4 American presidents and 6 British prime ministers, and with the Kremlin leader, Vladimir Putin, she has often had tense discussions. Angela Merkel is one of the few world leaders who has some leverage over Vladimir Putin.
  • The battle is now being fought at home. In Germany. With the image in mind of a leader who has brought stability, able to negotiate anything with anyone and who has raised the Germans’ living standard, it is not surprising that the choice will be a very difficult one to make.
  • The Social Democrats understood from the meetings with the electorate that there was no point in looking for an SPD version of Merkel, so, with that plan in mind, Olaf Scholz came into the limelight. He torpedoed his opponents with pragmatic answers to issues triggered by the pandemic, for example. But there is something else remarkable here. Scholz and the green candidate seem to agree on several issues, including on raising the minimum wage from 8 to 10 euros per hour, increasing the child allowance and granting the right to vote from the age of 16.
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