Angela Merkel has been a most astonishing and successful political survivor in Germany since its re-unification. A recognisable and enigmatic politician, indeed.
Merkel first came to power in 2005, and since then her record in office has been one of extraordinary resilience. Exit polls in Germany’s election put Angela Merkel and her party on course for their fourth term in office.
Two years ago, Germany absorbed over a million, mainly Syrian, refugees, and that would have held most politicians in Europe back, but not in her case. So, what are her secrets?
The secret is reassurance. She is making the normal and the boring great again at a time when the rest of the world is all sound and fury. She is the embodiment of political continuity.
The leader Germany needs
From an economic point of view, Germans were convinced that, under Merkel’s leadership, the prosperity of Germany is on the line.
They are saying: “We’ve got 1.9% record GDP growth rate in Germany’s history, 4% unemployment. Not choosing Merkel once more would certainly mean a resignation from prosperity.”
Ready to go the mile
Merkel felt that the demands of society did not really correspondent with the program of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and so she modernised her party in an extraordinary way by scrapping nuclear power.
She previously defended the industry as a necessary bridge to a more widespread use of renewable energy.
Angela Merkel has moved her formerly conservative party to the centre. She adapted the program of her party to the needs of the people
However, as most Germans dislike nuclear energy, in a bid to gain support among voters, Merkel promptly scrapped her extension plan following radioactive leaks at the Fukushima plant in Japan.
She has yet again shown herself to be a cunning political player by allowing a free-vote on same-sex marriage. Merkel had appeared to shift her long-standing opposition to gay marriage on June 26 of this year.
A million refugees
Under Merkel’s leadership, Germany has absorbed over one million refugees into the country at the height of Europe’s refugee crisis in 2015.
She is the one who calmed the situation. All the other parties are with Angela Merkel on this issue.
Given that the German society has undergone such a change with bringing in over a million refugees in such a short time, it’s amazing that Angela Merkel has actually come back for a fourth term as chancellor, marking her 12th year in office. I don’t think that would be the case for any other European country.
I think one of the issues that is very under-reported when it comes to the refugee crisis is how Germany is dealing with this.
Millions of Germans have taken in asylum-seekers and refugees not seeing any progress through the bureaucratic process, and integrating them into their society -- and there haven’t been any kind of mass protests or anything like that in Germany so far. But of course, AfD’s support is linked to, and exists, because of this phenomenon.
Merkel and the German voter
One thing that certainly struck a tone in the pre-election debate was that German voters had become aware of what they perceived as unstable.
They would look at what’s happening in Europe, and although many European countries vied for revolutionary change, and everyone was sitting on the edge of their seats for things such as La Pen taking a lead over Macron, I don’t think that was how the Germans felt.
They didn’t want a huge change.
They wanted to go on in the hands of their able and competent chancellor at a time when the world is becoming increasingly unsteady. And this unsteadiness has certainly been an asset for Merkel -- especially when looking at it from the foreign policy angle to find out what this German election means to the German voter.
Angela Merkel has, in effect, moved her formerly conservative Christian Democratic Union party closer to the centre. She adapted the program of her party to the needs of the people, and a little less to the needs of her party.
People in Germany trust her, they want somebody who is clear, who is reliable, and who has a clear vision about what is needed in international relations.
Sharif Hasan is currently working as a field researcher on behalf of Centre for Genocide Studies (CGS), University of Dhaka.