The World Today for September 24, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

GERMANY

Succession

When German Chancellor Angela Merkel steps down from office after parliamentary elections on Sunday, she will leave behind an impressive legacy.

Germany is the fourth-largest economy in the world. It is the European Union’s most powerful member. The country has weathered economic crises, migrant crises, the coronavirus pandemic and other challenges.

But Merkel’s legacy arguably also left Germany vulnerable, wrote the New York Times, citing the dependence of its export-driven companies on China, Merkel’s failure to build a robust digital infrastructure, the sloppy closure of nuclear reactors after the Fukushima disaster in Japan and the rise of inequality during her nearly 16-year-long tenure.

The sense of change in the air in Germany as Merkel exits is not helping Armin Laschet, the head of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, who is seeking to replace her as chancellor. His “bumbling” campaigning – putting ketchup on a bratwurst in Saxony where the locals take mustard, for example – has reduced his lead in the polls to only a percentage point, Bloomberg reported.

The Christian Democratic Union’s main rivals, the left-leaning Social Democrats, meanwhile, are hammering away at Laschet’s proposed spending cuts and refusal to back tax increases as a lack of a vision for the future.

“Merkel is very good in solving crises when there is crisis,” Matthias Bartke, a Social Democratic parliamentarian from Hamburg-Altona, told National Public Radio. “There are very few people who can handle it better. But she has no idea about the future. And Schulz has a very, very clear plan of how things should develop and look like.”

The third-largest party, the Greens, meanwhile, doesn’t appear to be poised for a breakout victory despite torrential rains that led to deadly sinkholes in the country and shined a light on its vulnerability to climate change, the Financial Times reported.

Many Germans have been disappointed by their options. “There’s no need to fear charisma in this year’s German elections,” wrote Foreign Policy magazine.

Whoever wins will likely not achieve sufficient seats to govern alone. Instead, the winner will need to form a coalition with the other prominent parties and a few others with seats in the Bundestag, or German parliament. The would-be chancellors have plenty of important issues to cover. There are international and military questions, as the European Council on Foreign Relations described. A contested Russian gas line remains an issue, as Reuters explained. And as Timothy Garton Ash discussed in the Guardian, questions remain about the future of the embattled EU.

Everything is in the air because, soon, Merkel won’t be around.

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