/ 24 September 2021

The end of the Merkel era

Image source: Getty
Image source: Getty

Germany heads to the polls this Sunday, and Chancellor Angela Merkel won’t be on the ticket for the first time in 30 years. She announced back in 2018 that she isn’t seeking re-election for a 5th term, and after 16 years in the nation’s top job and 18 years as leader of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, she’s calling time on her political career.

A theoretical quantum chemist from the former communist East Germany, Merkel became reunified Germany’s first female chancellor in 2005. During her time in office, she earned a swag of nicknames, including the world’s most powerful woman, Europe’s de facto leader and at home, “die Mutti”, aka Mummy. She has steered Europe’s biggest economy through the global financial crisis, migrant crisis, Brexit and COVID – and passed the rare ‘how do I react after a tray of beers have been poured down my back’ test. She’s dealt with some interesting situations with fellow world leaders while packing an epic eye roll (which made her a comedy favourite…). Merkel wasn’t always Germany’s natural leader – she was seen as “temporary” when she first rose through the political ranks. But she delivered stability for her party and the nation. Now 67yo, she’ll be one of the few to exit politics under her own steam and not as a victim of one of the 3 Ds – defeat, disgrace or death.

Not just yet… This weekend, Germans will elect members of the lower house of the parliament (aka the Bundestag). And while the party with the most seats should clear on the night, it’s unlikely to have a majority. That means the next chancellor will be selected once a coalition with majority support is settled. The last election was in 2017, and it took almost 5 months for Merkel to form a coalition government. So it could take a while… In the running: Merkel’s CDU colleague Armin Laschet, Olaf Scholz of the centre-left Social Democrats and Annalena Baerbock of the Greens. While that’s being sorted out, Merkel can press on with foreign policy initiatives. “There are demands made of me while I am in office, and I will continue in that way until my last day,” she has said. In the meantime, Merkel’s on the hustings to drum up support for Laschet – exactly where she didn’t want to be

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