November 21, 2016
She said to herself "you can't get off the field at a time like this", but it was apparently a closer decision than many people had thought. Angela Merkel was minded not to run for a fourth term, citing potential health reasons and the very difficult election campaign ahead. The decision to run was met with relief by the CDU, which would have struggled to agree on another candidate so late in the game. The CSU's chief Horst Seehofer supported Merkel's decision, while his nemesis - Bavaria's finance minister Markus Soder - said the decision would be met with respect, but not enthusiasm.
The comments by the most senior German political commentators ranged from resigned to outright sceptical. We should note that these are mostly commentators supporting of the centre-right.
Berthold Kohler notes in Frankfurter Allgemeine that Merkel is the best chance for the CDU/CSU to stick to power. If Merkel really had wanted to say No, she would have done this much earlier. But there can also be no doubt that Merkel's power has already passed its zenith, both within Germany and abroad. The elections and the period afterwards are going to be difficult. Merkel favours a coalition with the Greens, but that would be hard to do with the CSU. And even the most likely option, a continuation of the grand coalition (not so grand after the election) would be difficult as the SPD will not tolerate Merkel forever. It would be no surprise if she left half-way through the next term, and handed over to another CDU politician.
In a separate article the paper tried to analyse Merkel's tactics. The reason she announced her decision so late was coldly calculated. Because she refused to announce her decision early, she forced her critics to come up with another candidate, which they could not do.
Heribert Prantl writes in Süddeutsche Zeitung that there used to be a time when people underestimated Merkel. But now the political danger is to overestimate her.
Nikolaus Blome, who has been a Merkel fan, writes in Bild that the political environment will become more hostile for her. She could be squeezed between a possible coalition of SPD, Greens and the Left Party coalition on the one side, and the AfD on the other. We are no longer in the political game where the only question is how big her lead would be. The public still rejects her refugee policies. To succeed, Merkel will have to reinvent herself in the upcoming election campaign. That's going to be hard to do after three terms in office.
While everybody has been focused on Merkel, we think the most important shift to take place in Germany is in the Bundestag. The Bundestag is a very powerful parliament, whose role has been strengthened. It was less powerful under Merkel because her two grand coalitions had overwhelming majorities, and the euro rescue policies of her 2009-2013 coalition with the FDP were supported by the opposition. The policy consensus is now over. We agree that a continuation of the Grand Coalition is the arithmetically most likely outcome, but the majority in seats would be much reduced - from 80% now to just over 50%. Both the AfD and the FDP can be counted on to oppose any further eurozone rescues. Her own party is divided. The coalition may have enough votes to vote for Merkel as chancellor, but not enough to support her policies.