Berlin: Angela Merkel told senior members of her Christian Democratic Union that she’ll run again as party leader and seek a fourth term as German chancellor, ending months of speculation over her political future.
The chancellor revealed her decision to a meeting of the CDU’s executive board in Berlin on Sunday, according to three people who were present. She said that by seeking re-election she wants to provide stability and direction in difficult times, one of the people said. All asked not to be named because an announcement has yet to be made public. Merkel is due to brief reporters at 7 pm local time.
Merkel’s candidacy for the party leadership she has held since 2000 will now go to a vote at the CDU’s annual convention in the western city of Essen in two weeks. Assuming she is re-elected CDU chairwoman, she would then contest federal elections in the fall of next year as her party’s candidate to be chancellor.
“This removes any last bit of uncertainty,” Carsten Nickel, an analyst for Teneo Intelligence, said by phone from Brussels. “For the markets, it’s positive” and it’s reassuring for wider Europe, he said. “Even if they don’t agree on everything, people know her, they know what to expect from her.”
Merkel’s policy of allowing almost 1 million refugees to enter Germany last year eroded support for the chancellor and her party while fueling backing for the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany. The opprobrium heaped on her probably contributed to Merkel’s hesitancy over trying to extend her 11-year tenure as chancellor, as she deliberated how best to ease tensions in Germany.
The events of the past week look to have swayed her hand. A two-day visit by President Barack Obama on his farewell overseas trip underscored what’s at stake for Europe faced with uncertainty over the incoming Trump administration’s policy in areas such as free trade, Nato and Russia. Calling her “outstanding” and his closest international partner, Obama all but endorsed her to run again while saying that any weakening of the trans-Atlantic alliance would lead to a “meaner, harsher and tougher world.”
Domestically, Merkel hinted at her electoral intentions by agreeing to support foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as the next German president. In backing her coalition partner’s candidate for the mainly ceremonial post, she signalled her preference for a possible resumption of the so-called grand coalition of her CDU and the Social Democrats that she led during her first and third terms.
Polls also suggest support for her bloc has stabilized as measures to curtail the influx of refugees and ease the return of those whose applications for asylum are rejected take effect. CDU/CSU backing was at 33% in the latest Emnid poll for Bild am Sonntag newspaper published Sunday. That compared with 24% for the SPD, 12% for the opposition Greens, 9% for the anti-capitalist Left Party and 5% for the Free Democrats, her second-term coalition partner. The AfD had 13%.
The same poll showed 55% of voters favoured another term for Merkel, up from 42% in August. Among her own party’s supporters, 92% back her for a fourth term, while among women the figure was 66%. Even among SPD voters, 54% said they wanted Merkel to stand again.
One barrier to her re-election lies with her Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, which has been among her most strident critics on immigration. Bavarian Premier and CSU leader Horst Seehofer, who is pushing for an upper limit of refugees that she refuses to impose, has withheld his party’s support for her candidacy.
Even here, the CDU-CSU dispute has ebbed and the Bavarian party fully expects her to run for a fourth term, the Rheinische Post newspaper reported this weekend, citing an unnamed senior CSU official.
Along with Sunday’s first-round primary to select the Republican candidate for the French presidency, Merkel’s decision contributes to “a hugely important day for Europe,” said Erik Nielsen, global chief economist at Unicredit in London.
Both events mean “we’ll get pretty clear indications of who’ll lead us though the next few years when the world order might change under Trump—and possibly dramatically so and probably not for the better,” Nielsen said in a note. Bloomberg