Merkel’s legacy balanced as party risks electoral defeat

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Tories May Withdraw From Government Completely After 16 Years In Power

BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel can be congratulated abroad for her handling of the cold crisis – at home, her legacy risks being tarnished by a botched succession with her party set to return to its worst post-war score in the Sunday elections.

As Germans go to the polls, polls show Merkel’s conservative CDU-CSU alliance led by Armin Laschet is right behind challenger Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party and threatened with withdrawing from government altogether after 16 years in power.

“Everyone knows that if Laschet loses, then Merkel’s legacy is also lost,” the conservative daily Welt said.

“Only if he (he) wins … will it be possible for the CDU to come to terms with 16 years of government under Merkel.”

The seasoned chancellor who grew up in communist East Germany stands out in a party dominated by western Roman Catholic patriarchs, who over the years have reluctantly agreed to move the CDU to the center as ‘she won consecutive electoral successes.

But his fateful decision to keep Germany’s borders open to migrants in 2015 sparked a huge backlash from his party and even other EU countries, leading to a series of regional electoral defeats. Setbacks finally prompted her in 2018 to announce that she was retiring from politics.

Her handpicked successor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was forced to resign in early 2020 due to a regional political scandal in which her party voted alongside the far-right AfD – an outcast for mainstream politicians .

Left with few good options, the Conservatives finally opted for Laschet, their current unpopular CDU leader and future successor to Merkel.

But Laschet only won his place after deadly battles first for the leadership of the CDU and then for the nomination as chancellor candidate of the conservative alliance against the more popular Markus Soeder of the Bavarian sister party CSU.

With discontent lingering in the losing camps of previous leadership struggles, a Tory defeat would likely topple Laschet and set the stage for another vicious power struggle.

“There would be an earthquake, a brutal melee for the role of chairman of the parliamentary group,” the RND news group predicted, adding that the CSU would blame the larger CDU party.

– Empty –

At the dawn of summer, the conservatives enjoyed a comfortable lead against the SPD.

But Laschet was seen laughing behind President Frank-Walter Steinmeier as he paid tribute to the victims of the deadly July floods, an image that would radically turn the tide against him and his party.

With the climate now the biggest problem for Germans, a call by young people for greater environmental protection made the CDU seem traditionally pro-car industry out of step with the times.

And the damaging corruption scandals over the mask purchase deals during the pandemic have also added to the bad press plaguing the party.

Merkel, who had planned to stay largely on the sidelines of the election campaign, found herself compelled to step in to support Laschet, stacking joint appearances in hopes that part of the chancellor’s brilliance still immensely popular rub off on him.

“What is clear in recent years is that everyone who stood closest to Merkel could benefit from it. It is not the distance from her that helps in the polls, but the feeling of being almost identical to it, “said Karl-Rudolf Korte of the University of Duisburg.

After a large rally in Munich on Friday, Merkel appealed to the sensitivity of the country’s mostly older electorate, urging them to keep the conservatives in power “to keep Germany stable.”

Just 24 hours before the vote, she also rushed to Aachen, Laschet’s home ground, to give it one last boost.

Laschet is a “bridge builder who will bring people on board” to shape Germany to meet its future challenges, she said at the rally.

Thorsten Faas of the Free University of Berlin noted that the hole Merkel left was also an indication of her strength.

“People are now noticing that the Union’s ability to fit in, to hold all directions together, comes from her as a person and from the bonus of her function. She has left a void, first at the head of the party, now also in the Chancellery. “

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