Germany’s Angela Merkel has resigned her position as the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader with immediate effect and promised to step down as chancellor in 2021, following recent election setbacks. Her decision seems to herald the beginning of the end of her 13-year political journey and dominance of European politics.
Angela Merkel has been the leader of her CDU party since 2000, making her one of the longest-serving CDU party leaders. Her decision to step down as the party leader did not come by surprise after her party and her sister coalition partner lost heavily in elections in both Bayern and Hessen states. It all started with the CDU election losses; however, the recent loss on October 14 of the Bavarian sister party to the Angel Merkel’s CDU party, the Christian Social Union, or CSU of its majority in the Bavarian state parliament, put enormous pressure on Merkel and dented her political power seriously. The CSU has effortlessly, dominated the political landscape of the Bayern state since the end of World War II. So the loss of its majority in the State was a big blow to Angela Merkel. The most recent election losses in Hessen were the last drop the would lead to Mrs. Merkel paying the ultimate political price. Even though both Merkel’s CDU and its coalition partners, the SPD remain in power in Hessen, they both lost 10% of their votes.
Her decision to quit as party chairperson is a clear contrast to Mrs. Merkel’s previous position, in which she linked the party leadership to the chancellorship. Understood in the context that she would only remain as German Chancellor if she is the ruling party chairperson as well. But Mrs. Merkel has clearly seen the handwriting on the wall and watched her popularity diminishing following election losses. She equally understands that any attempt to continue linking the party leadership to the Chancellorship could trigger more challenges to her political position and possibly lead to her political obituary.
“I will not be seeking any political post after my term ends,” she told a news conference in Berlin.
Mrs. Merkel took “full responsibility” for recent election setbacks and vowed to work hard with vigour and “make sure that trust is won back.”
Apart from the Green party, which gained a lot of votes during the recent elections in Germany, clearly, the anti-immigration far-right party, the Alternative For Germany (AfD ), which has vigorously campaigned against the presence of refugees – especially from the Muslim countries, has greatly benefitted from the CDU’s political woes. The resentment of some Germans towards the Muslim – especially following a couple of crimes committed by Muslims immigrants in Germany drained votes from the ruling party. The infamous sexual assaults by migrants in Cologne and Islamist attacks in Germany, all “justified” AFD’s anti-immigration campaign as well as dented the chancellor’s popularity. It is on record that Chancellor Merkel opened the German door to refugees – especially Muslim refugees from Syria, despite oppositions from some of her party members. This rare humanitarian deed from Mrs. Merkel won her praises globally. But that same political decision could lead to the beginning of the end of Merkel’s political career.
Although Angela Merkel has announced that she would stay on as the Chancellor till 2021, the question being asked by many political observers is whether she indeed can survive politically till the said period. If the party elects Mrs. Merkel’s opponent as the party chairperson, Mrs. Merkel’s chancellorship might become increasingly problematic and possibly untenable. However, if her ally is elected as the party leader, Mrs. Merkel will most likely see to the end of her Chancellorship and a smooth change of power in 2021.
Regardless, the one thing is clear: Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political journey and dominance are gradually coming to an end.