How quickly will the Merkel era end?

After 18 years as leader of Germany's CDU, Angela Merkel is stepping down. But she plans to remain chancellor until the end of the current legislative period in 2021. Some commentators are unhappy with this slow-motion departure. Others say she's leaving just in time.

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Die Presse (AT) /

Loss of authority and credibility

Die Presse doesn't consider the step-by-step withdrawal to be a good strategy:

“This was an iron principle of the German head of government. She repeated it again and again. Until yesterday, when the most powerful woman in Europe broke her own principles and announced that she was giving up the post of party leader after 18 years at the helm of the CDU. Faced with plunging approval ratings and disastrous election results, Merkel also renounced another of her power principles: Don't set a deadline! 'This fourth term of office is my last one', the chancellor said. Angela Merkel should have read up on her Angela Merkel. Her semi-departure is a 'loss of authority right down the line' (and a loss of credibility to boot). If you are no longer able to lead a party you have no business leading a country either.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Slow-motion departure only makes things worse

Angela Merkel's remaining chancellor will further weaken the political centre in Germany and Europe, The Daily Telegraph warns:

“Impasse looks set to be Angela Merkel's legacy at home and in the EU. She has presided over the fragmentation of the political spectrum inside Germany which raises the spectre of ungovernability in Europe's power-house. By trying to cling to the chancellorship after December, Merkel will deepen that troubling trend. Her slow-motion departure won't reverse the growing polarisation of politics across the EU which marked her 13 years as the group's dominant political personality.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Bad news for Europe

Merkel's announced resignation is worrying indeed, Hospodářské noviny writes:

“No matter what one might think of the chancellor and her party, the EU needs a stable and predictable Germany as a motor - ideally in tandem with France. With that in mind, Merkel's announcement is bad news for Europe. ... With her unexpected decision - the rash but very humane gesture of opening Germany's and Europe's borders for hundreds of thousands of refugees - she lost the possibility of a more carefully planned departure. ... Thanks to Merkel, the Germans have lived through the most turbulent times since the end of the war in a sort of bubble, symbolised by a budget surplus, a relatively weak army and a strong welfare state. No matter who succeeds her, they'll have a hard time following in her footsteps both at home and abroad.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

The start of a quick end

Journalist Heikki Aittokoski doubts in Helsingin Sanomat whether Merkel will be able to hold out as chancellor until 2021:

“Merkel wants to remain chancellor, but it's difficult not to see her withdrawal as party leader as the decisive step heralding the end of an era. In principle it would be possible for her to remain chancellor for the entire legislative period, until 2021. But I wouldn't bet a cent of the single currency on that. The coalition in Germany is constantly rocked by tensions. And the new CDU chairperson, whoever that may be, will certainly not want to spend years standing in Merkel's shadow.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Just in time

The Süddeutsche Zeitung defends Merkel against accusations that she has clung to power for too long:

“Merkel considered in 2017 that it was her duty to run again, in view of the unpredictable new US president and the Furies of nationalism that had been unleashed all over the world. As Europe and the US reeled, Angela Merkel again ran for chancellor - not so much because she wanted to than because she considered it her duty. But that wasn't enough - and still isn't. The bitter truth remains that since her re-election her lack of will and energy have been tangible. ... Merkel's recipe for success was success - as long as she had it. Since it started to crumble, and then disappeared altogether, the doubts about her leadership ability grew. In stepping down as party leader just in time, she has reactivated her power.”

Habertürk (TR) /

Another ten years would have been within reach

Merkel's move is astounding in view of her successful track record, Habertürk finds:

“Angela Merkel, undisputedly the most successful and strongest leading figure in Europe, has announced that she will not stand again as party leader at the CDU conference in two months' time. While country after country in Europe was sinking into crisis she managed to keep Germany on track and make it Europe's leading economic power, crowning this economic success with an increase in its political power and a constant rise in real growth in the country. Now she is stepping down - at just 64 years of age. And because she is stepping aside Europe's currency, the euro, is losing value. Yet she would probably have the strength to lead her country for another ten years.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Chancellor neglected the "C" in CDU

Rzeczpospolita explains why the chancellor has increasingly lost her party's support:

“The reason for the unrest in the CDU has to do not just with dissatisfaction over Merkel's immigration policy, which only a few weeks ago led to a bitter row with the Bavarian CSU and threatened the stability of the government in Berlin. Many conservative politicians don't want to accept the fact that the 'C' in the party's name - the Christian element - has dwindled in importance. That is the work of Merkel, who led her party strongly in the direction of the political centre. She won elections, but with ever smaller margins.”