Sunday, June 24, 2018

Der Spiegel: "The Approaching End to Merkel's Tenure"

Considering the source is about as mainstream, centrist, establishment and influential as you are likely to find in Germany, this piece should probably be taken seriously.

From Spiegel Online, June 22:

With the chancellor under heavy fire from Bavarian conservatives, Germany's political landscape may be facing radical upheaval. Angela Merkel might lose her job and the country's traditional center-right partnership could soon end. By DER SPIEGEL Staff
"At some point, I would like to find the right time to leave politics," Angela Merkel said. "That's a lot more difficult than I had imagined. But I don't want to be a half-dead wreck when I leave politics."  

The comments came in response to a question about her life goals outside of politics way back in 1999. Merkel had just become secretary-general of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and sat down for an interview with the photographer Herlinde Koelbl for her book "Spuren der Macht" (Traces of Power).

That was also the year in which Merkel's rise within the CDU began, along with the almost revolutionary restructuring of the party. In subsequent years, Merkel jettisoned so many traditional CDU positions that it is more accurate to speak of a re-founding of the party than a process of modernization. Many conservatives have since been unable to recognize their old party. And all the while, discomfort with Merkel's leadership continued to grow, year after year, within the Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU's Bavarian sister party.

Since fall 2015, when almost a million people arrived in Germany as a result of Merkel's liberal refugee policies, this discomfort has mutated into open rejection. And now, in June 2018, the CSU has had enough, even if there isn't currently an obvious trigger for their vexation aside from approaching Bavarian state elections scheduled for mid-October. They would like to see the immediate end of the Merkel era -- there is really no other way to interpret comments made recently by CSU party leadership. And to achieve that goal, they are prepared to sacrifice the decades-long partnership between the two conservative parties.

"Merkel's political approach has reached the end of its tether," says a CSU parliamentarian. Discussions about Merkel within the CSU are characterized by rage and malice. And CSU leader Horst Seehofer is threatening to defy Merkel's constitutionally guaranteed power to determine policy guidelines.

Formally, the chaos we are seeing in the German political landscape these days stems from just one of the 63 items on Seehofer's so-called "masterplan" for reforming refugee policy: his call for people to be turned back from the German border if they have already applied for asylum or been registered as a refugee in another European Union member state. For quite some time, the CSU itself seemed unsure as to exactly who it wanted to turn away at the border, but the main thing was to take a tough line.

The Fall of Merkel?
Merkel, meanwhile, views such a policy as the kind of unilateral German move that she would like to avoid. She insists that there must be a "European solution," by which she means a reform of EU migration policy negotiated with all of Germany's European Union partners.
In truth, though, it's not about that one item on Seehofer's list. The CSU would like to put an end to the refugee policy that is closely linked with Merkel's name. If Seehofer and his party fulfill their promise to soon begin turning people back from the border -- on which no senior CSU politician leaves any doubt -- then Merkel would only be left with two options: that of abandoning her own convictions or of consummating the break between the CDU and CSU.

Ironically, it is Merkel's own sister party has triggered the most significant political crisis in her almost 13-year tenure as chancellor. It remains unclear how it will end, but chatter about the chancellor's potentially imminent demise has now become a constant at every water cooler in Berlin....MUCH MORE