Make no mistake. Angela Merkel will stay German chancellor. Nobody can seriously challenge the politician, who has led Germany for the last twelve years. Everything points to a boring campaign and election.
Merkel’s success rests on the specifics of the German political system, the relative success of her policies, the weakness of her enemies, and the German fondness for tranquility and order.
Germans will vote for a new Bundestag on September 24, which in turn elects the chancellor. Due to the complicated German election system, coalition parties don’t necessarily need a majority of all votes cast to win a majority in the German parliament, the Bundestag.
Every likely coalition government would include Merkel’s CDU as the leading partner and, therefore, her as the chancellor for years to come. There is no alternative to Angela. In opinion polls, the CDU towers at 40 percent, while the once proud Social Democrats (SPD) are dwarfed to 25 percent. With the Greens, Liberals (FDP), Socialists and rightwing newcomers AfD each polling at around 8 percent, Merkel can pick and choose from the SPD, Greens and FDP.
Due to their nationalist and communist leanings, neither AfD nor the Socialists would find partners to form a majority coalition. The AfD is despised almost universally among the other parties and the Socialists could only join a three way coalition with the SPD and Greens, which would be too small and face internal opposition with both partners.
Successful chancellor is successful
Watching the echo chambers of German public discourse, one might wonder why Merkel is doing so well in said polls. A never ending stream of criticism floods the internet. There is a whole industry of “Merkel muss weg” (Merkel must go) media and merchandise. But while these voices from left and right may be vocal, they are few and contradict the reality of German life.
The German economy is in good way. Unemployment is at record low levels. Purchase power is strong and the state is collecting taxes at unprecedented levels. Germany’s economic backbone, an army of small and medium businesses, is thriving and has trouble to fulfill orders.
Despite all problems, Germans are doing generally well. And most of them tend to re-elect the leader that gave them this tranquil state of satisfaction.
The big stain on Merkel’s record has been the refugee crisis of the last two years. Her popularity plummeted when Germans thought that she lost control of the situation, while ratings for the anti immigration populists of the AfD rose into the double digits. But as the influx of immigrants has practically stopped and authorities slowly are startig to control the situation, Merkel’s poll numbers are returning to their pre-crisis levels.
No opponents, only victims
Within her own party, Merkel’s seemingly dull style of leadership is provoking much criticism, but none of her critics has gathered enough momentum or prominence to seriously challenge her.
SPD chairman and chancellor candidate Martin Schulz is struggling to build momentum. A boring Brussels bureaucrat by trade, he tries to challenge Merkel on social and economic questions — unsuccessfully. Voters are not convinced that he can offer them anything better than they have with Merkel. The SPD never had less support countrywide than under his leadership.
There is no Angelaternative
Politically, Angela Merkel is certainly the least conservative CDU-chancellor Germany ever had. She even let gay marriage get legalized within a week and without putting up a fight. But that means also that there are no hard policy questions where the left wing can seriously challenge her.
Therefore Merkel is also the most successful CDU-chancellor Germany ever had. Weeks before the elections, her next term is practically certain. The only thing uncertain is her junior partner.