Swords and daggers are being readied. The Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD), bound by a tense partnership, have been getting a battering in Germany’s state elections. Poor showings in Bavaria and Hesse are proving omens of oracular force. The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) now finds itself with a presence in all 16 regional parliaments. The Greens have been polling strongly, while the Left Party and Free Democrats have doggedly maintained their presence. The day after the poor showing Hesse, Merkel announced that she would not be seeking re-election as leader of the Christian Democrats in December. Nor would she be running again as Chancellor in 2021.
Other European states will view her with the sort of respect that is afforded the German national football team: dislike and fear in a jumble with respect and admiration. At times, she let various cabinet members get ahead of themselves – Herr Schwarze Null, the darkly obsessive figure of balanced budgets and punitive financial measures, Wolfgang Schäuble, for too long coloured the age of austerity.
For such figures, including Merkel, thrift became dogma and mission, a goal of its own separate from social goals and cute notions of sovereignty. The vile god of monetary union needed to be propitiated; Greece needed to be sacrificed, its autonomy outsourced to external financial institutions. Making states seek bailouts while repaying crushing debts, many of them the result of unwise lending practices to begin with, seemed much like requiring the chronic asthmatic to do a hundred metre dash without a loss of breath. As a result of such policies, the European Union has edged ever closer to the precipice.
Throughout her chancellorship, abrupt changes featured. Having convinced the Bundestag that phasing out nuclear energy born from the Red-Green coalition of 2001 was bad (an extension of operating times by eight to fourteen years was proposed), Merkel proceeded to, in the aftermath of Fukushima, order the closure of eight of the country’s seventeen nuclear plants with a despot’s urgency. This became the prelude to the policy of Energiewende, the energy transition envisaging the phasing out of all nuclear power plants by 2022 and a sharp shift to decarbonise the economy.