Merkel withdraws from chairmanship contention

Merkel waves at a public appearance

Merkel waves at a public appearance

Emanuel Adamiak, Blogger

In the past few years populism has been on the upswing not only in the United States, but also in many parts of Europe such as Italy, Hungary and Poland. But in this time of a global political shift to the right, one major political figure has been unalterable, seemingly untouched by the developments in other countries. Up until now, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, regarded as the most powerful woman on earth, has remained a stable force in an ever-changing international political climate.

When on Monday, the calm and prudent chancellor stepped on stage to announce that she is not going to run as her party’s chairwoman in December, it was a shock to many, while to others saw it as a necessary step for change in Germany.

Merkel has been the chair of the Christian Democrat Union (CDU), a center-right party, since 2000 and is currently in her fourth term as Germany’s chancellor, the country’s leader. Her decision is the beginning of the end of a political era that has lasted for almost two decades. In addition to ceding the chairmanship, the choice also indicates that Merkel will not campaign for a fifth term as chancellor in 2021.

In recent years her party’s governing coalition with the social democrats (SPD) and the Christian Social Union (CSU)  has often been criticized harshly. Conflicts within Merkel’s party and with the coalition partner have created a frustration with the current government. Also, besides being seen as unstable, the parties involved in the so-called Grand coalition have lost voters’ trust, as German citizens haven’t noticed many political achievements.

Merkel’s withdrawal is a reaction to recent opposition not only to her leadership, but also to her party’s poor performance in recent elections. Known as a “catch-all party” the CDU is the most popular party in Germany, governing federally, but also in almost every one out of the sixteen German states. In the last three weeks local elections in Bavaria, the biggest German state area-wise, and Hesse, the state encompassing Frankfurt, Germany’s financial hub, turned out as a disaster for the CSU and Merkel’s party. The Union, as the two parties are often called, conceded historical loses in both states with the worst results since 1954. These losses prompted Merkel to take responsibility.

Calling her decision a “venture,” Merkel is aware of potential consequences, one of which might include a campaign against her chancellorship from her own party. And even though this threat might well turn into reality, she is confident that she will stay in office until the end of her term.

With her decision, Merkel opens the door for fresh air in German politics. At the same time her retreat leaves a void to fill with her successor taking on a challenge stepping into a great leader’s shoes. She will be missed not only by her fellow Germans, but also by Europeans, who saw Merkel as an indestructible force for a stronger Europe.