Since Spring 2018, we have been witnessing the Chancellor’s slow political agony. She is unable to make progress on any major issue and the coalition agreement is so fragile that each issue is subject to endless negotiations. Clumsiness immediately turns into a slip-up.
The two parties of the Grand Coalition jointly won 53% of the votes in the September 2017 elections (33% for the CDU/CSU and 20% for the SPD). Today, according to polls, they have fallen 10 points below (28% for the CDU/CSU and 15% for the SPD). From this point of view, the regional elections in Bavaria and Hesse were full-scale polls, which confirms that a new national election today would be a disaster for the two parties that have long been the pillars of German political life (in West Germany, they accounted for 90% of the votes in 1972, 80% in 1982, and 70% in 2005). AfD’s hard right seems to have permanently settled at around 15%, mainly at the expense of the CDU; while the Greens are experiencing a spectacular increase in votes (80% at the expense of the SPD and 20% of the CDU/CSU). The FDP (Liberals) obtained 10% of the vote, with the strongest base of loyal voters in its history (7%).
The political landscape is thus permanently fragmented and will remain so. If Mrs Merkel were to leave the Chancellery at the same time as the party leadership, it is likely that Wolfgang Schäuble would become Chancellor for the end of the term. He would have the power to limit the blows of the fight for succession, and Christian Democrats would soon regain strength. In any case, the Chancellor is deluded: she will not manage to stay until 2021, despite what she seems to think. If she stayed, the Greens would continue to rise, as would the Liberals and the AfD. And the SPD would stagnate at 15%. But by raising the issue of her succession to the CDU, Angela Merkel lifted a lid she can no longer put back in place, even if she wanted to.
Is there a risk that the Franco-German couple will be put on hold until 2021? What will Angela Merkel's European policy until the end of her mandate be? What can we expect from the next Chancellor regarding European issues?
Mrs Merkel will leave mixed impressions regarding Franco-German relations. Between 2008 and 2012, Nicolas Sarkozy was the one who initiated all the measures taken by the two countries to combat the crisis. During François Hollande's five-year term, the resolution of the Greek crisis was difficult; and, once again, it was the French President who tipped the balance in favor of keeping Greece in the euro. Not to mention the massive welcome of refugees, which was decided without any consultation with the rest of the EU (France included). Since Emmanuel Macron’s election, and especially since his Sorbonne speech, we have been waiting in vain for a response from the Chancellor regarding the dimensions of the proposal. Of course, the German political class is unanimous - except for a small segment of the SPD - in refusing to deepen the Eurozone. But Chancellors have often gone against the majority in the name of European and German interests in the past. Angela Merkel, despite having nothing to lose, did not even try to leave in style, with a European plea. Not only will she do nothing more, but she will leave behind a German political class unwilling to make the slightest effort regarding the European monetary policy.