Germans have to get behind Merkel right now
Failure of chancellor to forge a coalition comes at a time when she stands with China on globalisation and against the wave of US protectionism
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s failure to forge a coalition government has unsettled Europe. For the first time in more than a decade, there are doubts about the continued leadership of the continent’s most skilled and resilient politician. That has shaken economic confidence and certainty about the European Union and the direction of talks on Britain’s departure from the grouping. If she is forced into another election, Germans have to set aside their differences and give her their support.
More than a month of bargaining has not been able to find common ground for Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic-Christian Social Union alliance, the pro-market Free Democrats and the Green Party. Germany’s political landscape, once centred on three parties, has fragmented to seven in line with a shake-up across much of Europe. New groups have emerged on the far left and right in the wake of the 2010 banking collapse, euro-zone crisis and an influx of Muslim migrants. Merkel could lead a minority government, but she is used to exercising power and favours facing another election.
Germans see stability in coalitions, but the rise of groups with narrow interests such as the far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, which is now the country’s third most powerful political force, has eroded support for the main parties. The failure to back Merkel puts her future in doubt, casts a cloud of uncertainty over hopes of a rejuvenated alliance between Germany and France to safeguard the EU through reforms, and lessens the chances of a breakthrough in Brexit negotiations. Although Germany’s economy remains strong, a decline of its political influence through the weakening of its social democratic government would have a grave impact on European values and rights.
Merkel stands with China as the world’s leading proponent of globalisation, free trade and preventing climate change. Beijing needs that support to counter the protectionism sweeping the world as a result of Brexit and US President Donald Trump’s inward-looking policies. Germans need to better appreciate what the chancellor stands for and means for their country and the EU.