“She will be missed. And God knows who will replace her… ”This is what we often hear these days in Germany, and this show of respect does not come only, far from it, from conservatives. Even the Germans who have never voted for Angela Merkel are suddenly melancholy, even worried, when they think of the departure of this chancellor who, this Sunday, celebrates the 15 years of her arrival in power. A sympathy that the polls reflect more than ever. According to the barometer Germany trend published in mid-November by the public television channel ARD, 74% of Germans are today satisfied with the work of their chancellor. A sharp increase compared to the period just before the pandemic. It transgresses political affiliation.
Angela Merkel is even more popular today than when she was elected in 2005. Seventy-two percent of Germans approved of her then. Only once, in 2015 when she refused to close the doors of her country to refugees, did her solid popularity curve flageola. The pandemic is also benefiting the entire black coalition (CDU-CSU) -rouge (SPD) since two thirds of Germans (67%) say they are satisfied with the work carried out by the government under the leadership of the Chancellor. What a contrast to the grumbling barely a year ago when political analysts predicted the breakup of this so difficult alliance and the holding of early elections!
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Much like Social Democratic Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in the 1970s, Angela Merkel is one of those leaders who is at her best in times of crisis. The financial crisis had already catapulted her to the top of the polls. The health crisis anchors it solidly in the hearts of Germans. For the first time, this trained physicist is indeed able to use her scientific skills. The Germans feel they are in good hands and are reassured. Angela Merkel, who not so long ago was criticized so much for her wait-and-see policy, her policy of small steps and her lack of a global vision, is suddenly praised for her prudence, her ability to keep a cool head and to analyze calmly the situation. However, Angela Merkel would like to step on the accelerator. She does not hesitate to criticize the presiding ministers of the sixteen Länder when they refuse to impose stricter containment measures.
Angela Merkel accumulates trophies. Called the “Eternal Chancellor”, she has seen four American presidents (including Joe Biden), four French presidents and seven presidents of the Italian Council pass. She is the oldest European leader. But it is also in the process of overtaking all the other German chancellors who are accustomed to a solid political longevity. Last year, she dethroned Konrad Adenauer, fourteen years in power. Next year, “the girl” will equal her spiritual father Helmut Kohl, sixteen years in power, who stuck this nickname to his protege before she succeeds him and becomes the first woman and the first. Ossie (East German) at the head of Germany.
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But 2021 will also be the year of his departure. Angela Merkel, whose hand was somewhat forced to run for re-election three years ago, continues to affirm that she will not be a candidate in September 2021. Even if the fight against Covid- 19 has put the K-Frage, the question of the Chancellor, in the background, behind the scenes of power the battle for succession has already been playing out for months. If the Social Democrats have already placed their candidate, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, the conservative delegates will elect theirs at a virtual congress in mid-January.
They will have to choose between three Christian Democrats: Friedrich Merz, former leader of the CDU-CSU parliamentary group dismissed by Angela Merkel; Armin Laschet, Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia, the most densely populated land, and Norbert Röttgen, Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag. Unless they are overtaken at the end of the race by Markus Söder, head of the Bavarian CSU and big favorite of the base of conservative voters. For the moment, Markus Söder repeats that he has no intention of leaving Munich. At least as long as Angela Merkel directs in Berlin.