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Will Angela Merkel Beat Margaret Thatcher's Record?


German federal parliamentary elections are a month away and the outcome is still uncertain. While Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has held office since 2005, remains personally popular, her Christian Democratic party and their junior coalition partner, the liberal FDP, may have trouble collecting the necessary votes in September. Poor regional election results for the ruling coalition earlier this year appeared to be a harbinger of bad news, and the other parties have ruled out joining a coalition under her chancellorship.

Josef Joffe, the editor of Die Zeit and a board member here at The American Interest, has an excellent op-ed at the Financial Times dissecting how, through crisis and changing political winds, Merkel has been able to continue riding a wave of popularity—and why he thinks she’ll stay on top after September’s parliamentary elections for another four years:

In the last two regional state elections, the FDP entered the homestretch polling at four per cent, but emerged with twice as much on election day. If the FDP score six per cent, Ms Merkel can look forward to a total of twelve years in power – one more than Margaret Thatcher.

The two ladies could not be more different. Thatcher loved to polarize and to go straight for the jugular. Ms Merkel, a woman whose soft demeanour conceals a razor-sharp mind, is the ultimate survivor. She smells threats before they materialise; if she can’t deflect them, she will ride them—never mind her previous convictions. When Fukushima erupted, she decreed a shutdown for German’s reactors—even though she had just pleased the utilities by extending their operational lives. She announced the Energiewendea U-turn toward the Promised Land where only “sustainable” energy would flow. […]

Ms Merkel is just what the doctor ordered for the German soul. She may not enthrall, let alone amuse people. But what her enemies call “opportunism” is precisely her biggest advantage. People need not fear her. She won’t demand too much; she won’t go into a sudden lurch (except for the Energiewende, which catered to German nuclear angst). She will follow or ride the mood of the electorate, never surprising them with ideas that would trigger resentment. She will hold steady. But only so long as resistance does not turn into anger. If that happens, she will yield before displeasure turns into hostility.

Read the whole piece here (registration required).

[Angela Merkel image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

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  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Leaders which are political opportunists can be tolerated during times of stability, but when times get hard, real leadership is what’s needed. A man with a plan, willing to sacrifice political popularity to get what he wants, is what is needed now. We can expect Germany to continue to be hammered by events, which will continue to arrive Unexpectedly, instead of charting a new course leading to a better future.

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