Germany: Trusting in ‘Mother Merkel’
Angela Merkel has just made a remarkable comeback, said Eva Quadbeck in the Rheinische Post (Germany). Last year, the German chancellor was being bombarded with criticism over her decision to welcome more than 1 million refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and North Africa. Her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) placed a dismal third in elections in her home state of Mecklenburg- Vorpommern, and many people suspected that the migrant crisis would prove to be her undoing. This January, a plausible challenger emerged in the popular Martin Schulz, who had served as president of the European Parliament for five years and returned from Brussels to take over the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). Schulz initially soared ahead of Merkel in the polls. But the chancellor ignored her critics and kept on governing calmly, and now she’s riding high on a triple victory for the CDU in three state elections this year—including this week’s vote in North Rhine–Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state and a traditional SPD stronghold. In the upcoming national elections for the Bundestag, scheduled for September, Merkel is “once again the driving force” for her party, and the clear favorite to win a fourth four-year term as chancellor. Germans trust her.
That’s because she has nerves of steel, said Roland Nelles in Der Spiegel. “As a crisis-management expert in a crisis-stricken world,” she exudes competence and unaffected pragmatism. Merkel, 62, lacks big ideas or major reform projects, but she doesn’t need them. Voters are happy to let “Mother Merkel” quietly solve whatever problems the world throws at her: the euro crisis, the refugee surge, Russia, Turkey, President Trump. She manages to “remove the drama from every dramatic event.” And she’s similarly low-key during election season—in fact, her preferred method of campaigning is just governing the country. “She doesn’t let poll numbers make her crazy, but simply sees her business through.”
So far, that has worked, said The Guardian (U.K.) in an editorial. The migrant crisis has “abated as a defining political concern,” and the German economy is growing, so voters don’t see the need for change. Of course, another influx of refugees, or another major terrorist attack, could upend the current consensus. Then again, such an event could also remind voters of the “safe pair of hands” they have in Merkel. The rest of the European Union is counting on Germany to re-elect her, said Sydsvenskan (Sweden). Merkel has a rare ability to communicate well with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and unlike some German leaders, she’s not afraid to cross him: At a recent meeting she urged Putin to stop his war in eastern Ukraine and safeguard LGBT people in Chechnya. Just as important, she can stand up to President Trump, who is said to have asked her “10 times for a separate trade pact with Germany.” She has replied 10 times that all deals must go through the EU. “This quality of leadership is precisely what Europe needs.” ■