Review of Angela Merkel’s long stay as German Chancellor
Merkel 67, who during his long stay was dubbed Germany’s “eternal chancellor”, leaves with her popularity so resilient that she would likely have won a record fifth term had she sought it.
Instead, Merkel will pass the baton as the first German chancellor to step down entirely by choice, with a whole generation of voters never knowing another person at the top.
Her supporters acknowledge that she provided steady, pragmatic leadership through countless global crises as a moderate and unifying figure.
What is certain is that she leaves behind a fractured political landscape. It is also because of the long shadow she casts that her party’s candidate, Armin Laschet, has struggled to sharpen his own profile. Assuming she stays on to hand over power, Angela Merkel will tie or exceed Helmut Kohl’s longevity record for a post-war leader, depending on how long the upcoming coalition negotiations drag on.
The unflappable Merkel has served for many in recent years as a welcome counterbalance to the big, brash men of global politics, from Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin. A Pew Research Center poll showed large majorities in most democracies around the globe having “confidence in Merkel to do the right thing in world affairs”. However, the last days of her tenure have also been marred by what Merkel called the “bitter, dramatic and terrible” return to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan — a debacle in which she shares the blame as Germany completed its evacuation.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, her boldest move — keeping open German borders in 2015 to more than one million asylum seekers — seemed set to determine her legacy. But while many Germans rallied to Merkel’s “We can do it” cry, the move also emboldened an anti-migrant party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), ushering a far-right bloc into parliament for the first time since World War II.
She was born Angela Dorothea Kasner on July 17, 1954 in the port city of Hamburg, the daughter of a Lutheran clergyman and a schoolteacher. Her father moved the family to a small-town parish in the communist East at a time when tens of thousands were headed the other way. Merkel kept the name of her first husband, whom she married in 1977 and divorced five years later. (AP)
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