Can Merkel win another term as chancellor?

Angela Merkel has been re-elected as the leader of the CDU at the party conference. By voting for Merkel the conservatives have also backed her bid to run for a fourth term as chancellor. Commentators see Merkel and her party under huge pressure from both the right and the left.

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El País (ES) /

Don't fall into populists' trap

A repetition of the situation in September 2015 must be avoided, Merkel said at the CDU party conference in reference to refugee policy. For El País this is a response to pressure from the national conservative AfD party:

“The issue of immigration has turned out to be one of the most sensitive for Europe's governments and candidates when it comes to defending their positions in election campaigns and referendums. The most demagogic and radical arguments of the various populist movements have, to a greater or lesser extent, been incorporated into the discourse of other parties and candidates who fear a loss of support unless they enter this dynamic. … The chancellor is under great pressure over her policy in 2015 of opening borders to almost a million people with almost nothing but the clothes on their backs. This almost cost Merkel her party's historical ties with the CSU, its sister party in Bavaria. Now she has had to promise that this will 'not be repeated'. The veteran leader therefore now faces the complex task of responding to an anxious electorate without falling into the traps of populism.”

Mladá fronta dnes (CZ) /

CDU faces war on two fronts

The CDU must fend off foes on several fronts if Angela Merkel is to win a fourth mandate as chancellor, Mladá fronta dnes writes, commenting on the party conference in Essen:

“The Alternative for Germany (AfD) is attacking on the right, on the left is a potential coalition between the SPD, the Greens and the Left Party, which would put the CDU-CSU in the opposition should it win the election. Merkel is counting on a new choice of words to counter the AfD on the refugee issue. She supported a ban on burkas, and instead of saying 'we can do it', she opted for 'that must not and will not be repeated'. That was a clear message to all her critics, and above all to voters who are defecting to the AfD. ... And just how seriously the possibility of a SPD-Green-Left coalition is being taken became clear in every second speech at the CDU party conference. This threat is likely to become the main target of next year's election campaign.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

No compelling idea for the next elections

If Angela Merkel and her CDU party want to be re-elected they need to come up with a new message, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung demands:

“All the achievements of her time as chancellor with changing coalition partners are not in themselves adequate justification for her running for another term as chancellor. The loudly applauded speech contained a few good set pieces - phrases she used two weeks ago for example, when she announced she would seek re-election. But a truly inspiring reason for people to give her a fourth term was lacking, just as it was two weeks ago in Berlin. Merkel has problems with certain conservative concerns. Her most important message, the value of freedom, for which she can draw from her own biography, is more central than ever in view of the current political turmoil. But Merkel is sparing in her use of it, and she refuses, not just for reasons of self-defence, to be cast in the role of 'last defender of the West'.”

Causeur (FR) /

Destroying the European spirit

Angela Merkel has ruined the dream of a united Europe with her egotistic behaviour, Causeur criticises:

“She alone has emerged unscathed, or almost unscathed, from the furious chaos of the past year, and stands a good chance of being re-elected in autumn 2017. Who cares that my neighbours perish if I survive! Because let there be no doubt, September 2015, that terrible month which sealed the fate of her little European colleagues, was the highpoint of the migration crisis. It was Merkel and no one else who opened the floodgates with her rash welcome message to all the misery of the world. ... Angela Merkel will perhaps be re-elected, because the Germans will be grateful to her for having put their immediate interests above all else. Nevertheless she risks being viewed by history as the gravedigger of the European utopia.”

Právo (CZ) /

Every chance of winning fourth term

Angela Merkel has a good chance of being re-elected despite her problematic decisions, Právo explains:

“The de facto opening of Europe's borders last year was not Merkel's only controversial decision. The energy transition and her austerity policy in the euro crisis were also contentious. Nonetheless the chancellor remains an anchor of stability for many of her fellow citizens. And the media that support her have put her on a pedestal as the last defender of the free West, the irreplaceable mother of the nation and the only leader who can counter populism. … In one respect Merkel has been particularly successful: she has managed the almost impossible feat of being perceived as a supporter of a liberal economy and at the same time pushing through social measures such as the minimum wage. This is her strength. And if she doesn't face any strong competitors she may well win the German election for a fourth time.”

Berlingske (DK) /

Solve the refugee crisis first

If she wins another term as chancellor Merkel must address one task above all others, Berlingske demands:

“Even if Merkel wins a landslide victory in the upcoming German elections she and the rest of the EU must address the reasons for the citizens' discontent, first and foremost the refugee crisis. On this issue the EU has taken a disastrously wrong approach. If the member states had made a resolute and consistent effort to find a solution they could have shown half a billion Europeans that working as a team makes you strong. Instead all they could agree on was a deal born of desperation with Turkey. … If Merkel and the other EU leaders don't find a long-term solution to the problem - and that will be no easy undertaking - they will have a hard time justifying their continued political existence to a large section of the EU's population.”

Lietuvos žinios (LT) /

Germany's stability is important for Europe

The daily paper Lietuvos žinios sees Merkel as a guarantee for a stable Europe:

“This time it won't be easy for Merkel to win. The whole of Europe and the US are plagued by nationalism and chauvinism, it's almost impossible to say how the economy will develop, there is no end in sight to the wars in North Africa and the Middle East, and the Ukraine issue remains unresolved. But with Merkel's politics we can at least hope for more stability in our region. Europe would be in trouble if its centre - Germany - became unstable. We know this from the history of the fourth decade of the 20th century, when radical Nazi policies plunged Europe into a world war and erased several European countries, including Lithuania, from the political map. We, more than anyone else, should want a stable Europe with balanced policies from the major powers.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Berlin can only be moral leader

Germany isn't ready for the new role that many want it to play, Dagens Nyheter counters:

“Germany can't replace the Americans as Nato's backbone. It doesn't have the military strength, and what's more it doesn't have the will. And nor is the rest of the continent yearning for times gone by. Angela Merkel is no master of rhetoric and the German language limits her ability to act. But she can rely on her moral superiority, as she did when she let Trump know that transatlantic cooperation must continue on a democratic footing. But seeing her as the saviour of the liberal world order is going too far. She's doesn't fit the bill, and local voters would be deeply sceptical. Germany needs a peaceful world in which cars can be exported. But it can't bring about such a world.”

The Irish Independent (IE) /

Not the leader of the free world

Angela Merkel's hesitant approach to problems so far leaves little hope that she will now become a true world leader, The Irish Independent warns:

“There are dangers in taking an overly optimistic view of Ms Merkel's potential global impact, much less dubbing her 'leader of the free world'. The fact is that Ms Merkel's response to issues like the eurozone crisis was lumbering and unduly cautious. There is also the reality that Germany's defence spending is a fraction of the USA's. It is hard to see Germany suddenly taking over the US role in that realm. Similarly, we must recall that Germany operating effectively in the EU requires a partnership with France. That has been deficient under French President François Hollande.”

The Washington Post (US) /

No real rivals in sight

Angela Merkel stands a very good chance of being re-elected in view of the lack of viable alternatives, The Washington Post believes:

“If Merkel does win a fourth term, it might be due to the lack of a major rival. One possibility, former foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, now seems content to pursue the largely ceremonial position of president. That leaves names like Sigmar Gabriel, the colorful deputy chancellor from Merkel’s junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats, and possibly Martin Schulz, the current president of the E.U.’s parliament. But both men - and any other hopefuls - would first need to break through Merkel’s aura of political invincibility and the respect many Germans hold for her.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

The best option for Poland

The incumbent chancellor is the best option for Poland, the conservative daily Rzeczpospolita believes:

“From the Polish perspective a government consisting of the Social Democrats and the Left in Berlin would pose a major challenge. It might mean that the Ostpolitik and Germany's security policy are reversed. So we should cross our fingers for Angela Merkel and above all the Greens, who of all parties have the most respect for the Poles' sensitivity vis-à-vis the Russians. A coalition government consisting of Christian Democrats and Greens would best serve our interests. Right now this wouldn't be what the Green Party voters want because up to now they have said they would prefer a coalition with the Social Democrats and the Left Party. But a 'pro-Polish' government is at least a possibility purely in terms of figures, and that's good news. … So we wish you the best of luck, Ms Chancellor!”

ABC (ES) /

Europe needs Merkel

For ABC Merkel's announcement that she will run for a fourth term as chancellor is good news:

“Naturally after so much time in office contentious decisions have been made. … But one thing she can't be accused of is a lack of leadership. Merkel never gave up even when most of the other European leaders were paralysed or incapable of reaching a consensus. Germany is vital to Europe's stability and progress, and not just because of its economic dimensions and demographics. It takes a certain talent to show leadership without being perceived as arrogant and Merkel has displayed that talent over the years. She also has the backing of a grand coalition. The naturalness with which the main opposition party participates in government makes Spain green with envy. It looks like we Europeans could be facing a few very difficult years if the wave of populism and nationalism persists, and Merkel's talent will be indispensable.”

De Morgen (BE) /

She can't do it without help from Paris

Merkel's decision to run for chancellor again is good for Europe, but even if she's elected she won't be able to save Europe all on her own, De Morgen believes:

“Even for Mrs Merkel and prosperous Germany the task at hand will be extremely difficult. Particularly now that China is seeking to take over the global economy, Russia is bombing its way to increased military power and Trump has surrounded himself with advisers for whom there is no other term than 'white supremacists'. ... Merkel's role would be easier if France elects someone other than Marine Le Pen as president in 2017, replacing the totally burned-out Hollande with a moderate president who could give new vigour to the French-German axis. But if Le Pen is elected we'll have a problem on our hands: Merkel will find herself in an unpredictable and dangerous Bermuda triangle between Le Pen, Trump and Erdoğan. In such a storm even Merkel will go under.”

Kurier (AT) /

Just 'carrying on' won't work

Angela Merkel must change her policy if she wants to be re-elected, writes the Kurier:

“She knows that a farewell would have torn up the CDU - and she knows that the Social Democrats probably wouldn't have filled the gap this would have left in Europe. Therefore her decision to run for re-election is consistent and reassuring; and at this stage there is no real alternative. Nevertheless, the lack of alternatives she herself created carries the risk of further division - the number of those often disparagingly referred to as the 'left behind' could grow. If she is re-elected Merkel must change her 'carry on as before' approach, she must make the politics bubble more penetrable, make politics more open to attack. She must counter the polarization - and above all the economic division, because many things are going wrong in job wonderland Germany. If she manages to create unity in these times of division it will send an important message for all Europe. If she doesn't, her time as the only real option will soon be over.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Wanted: fresh ideas and new faces

Despite what her announcement suggests there are alternatives to Merkel, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung criticises:

“In her eleven years in power Merkel has led the country with a steady hand through a phase of stability and prosperity. Joblessness is at a low and employment rates are at an all-time high. Salaries have been rising once more for some time now. Germany is doing well. But Merkel hasn't brought the country much further. She benefited from the labour and social reforms her predecessor Gerhard Schröder introduced to his own detriment. Several groundbreaking reforms were even repealed under Merkel's leadership. The crippling burden of the state on the economy and society increased after the coalition with the Social Democrats. All in all new ideas and new faces at the helm of the German state would not be a bad thing.”