Politics

Angela Merkel could perform U-turn and stay on as German Chancellor

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Germany’s Chancellor last year announced her plan to step down from the position she has occupied since 2005. However, former German MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel suggested it was far from impossible that she could reverse her decision, especially in the wake of Armin Laschet’s narrow victory over Friedrich Merz which saw him crowned the leader of her Christian Democrat Union Party.

Mr Henkel, who stood down as an independent in the European Parliament in 2019, and who is also a former president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), said Mr Laschet’s hopes of succeeding Mrs Merkel were far from assured, especially given Markus Soeder, leader of long-time allies the Christian Social Union (CSU) consistently performs better in opinion polls.

A poor performance in September’s federal elections could result in Mr Laschet, currently the Prime Minister of the North Rhine Westphalia region, carrying the can and being forced to step down as leader, he warned.

Mr Henkel added: “Let’s not forget, that happened to Laschet’s predecessor Kramp-Karrenbauer who was basically cut down after a year in office by Merkel herself.

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“If she was able to do that, why not she not be able to do that again?

“Here, the same names could come up: Jens Spahn, Merz and – believe it or not, Merkel herself ‘in response, to an overwhelming wish by the party and the people in a time of crisis’, it might be argued.

“All is possible, but as seen from today, also rather unlikely.”

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Despite his defeat, Mr Henkel stressed Mr Merz was not yet entirely out of the running either, despite having ruffled feathers by proposing himself for a cabinet position in Mrs Merkel’s Government immediately after his defeat – an idea which was swiftly rebuffed.

Mr Henkel added: “There is currently quite a big disappointment within the Merz-Group of the CDU.

“While Merz‘s strange behaviour has disappointed some if not many of his supporters in the party and the public at large, it could be that this group will not give up and work on alternative scenarios of another attempt by or for Merz.

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“For instance, they could try to force a referendum by the party members, hoping that a majority of those would vote for Merz.”

However, Mr Henkel added: “I consider this rather unlikely.”

Mr Laschet, widely regarded as the 66-year-old Chancellor’s natural successor, to the point where he is sometimes referred to as “mini-Merkel”, is backed to become Germany’s next leader by just 21 percent of the population, according to a poll of 2,000 voters undertaken by pollster Forsa for broadcaster RTL/ntv conducted after Saturday’s vote.

By contrast, Mr Soeder was favoured by 36 percent – even though he has not officially declared himself to be a candidate as of yet.

In recent years Mrs Merkel, who has won four elections since becoming Chancellor, has been dogged by reports of ill-health in recent years, including several public bouts of shaking.

Nevertheless, she is 12 years younger than newly-installed US President Joe Biden.

Speaking yesterday, Mrs Merkel welcomed the arrival of the former Delaware senator in the White House, stressing there was far more scope for political agreement between Germany and the United States after his inauguration.

She told a news conference: “That is clear just looking at the executive orders he signed yesterday.”

There will be discussions about how the countries can each best advance their own interests and Germany, as well as the European Union, are going to have more responsibility, both diplomatically and militarily, Mrs Merkel added.

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