The legacy of “Merkelism”

Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin © Christo/ Photo: Wolfgang Volz

               It did not take long to complete the inventory of the Merkel legacy. The so-called unparalleled popularity of the Chancellor, her reputed incomparable record, was shattered by the verdict of the ballot box. If these assertions maintained and even over-exploited by the media bubble had been true, they would have resisted the vote of the electors . Instead, the CDU recorded historical lows which did not prevent its new leader from pretending to lead the German government. In fact, the general elections in the Bundestag were a revelation of a great disease of democracy. Its symptoms are recognizable in the New World: the end of politics contains threatening dangers. 

Frau Merkel has been in power for a long time, having served four terms, a record since Helmut Kohl. Some have seen this as a clear sign of his undoubted skill, if not his greatness. But it should be noted that of the 16 years spent at the Chancellery, 12 were in the context of cohabitation with the SPD. From then on, could his balance sheet have any relief? Does not a Grand Coalition impose the constant search for the lowest common denominator?

Angela Merkel’s assessment is indeed contrasted. Few major decisions were made; those that were taken have not necessarily been the most appropriate, for the German people as for its European neighbours. Merkel has served German industry well in Europe and beyond. Its success in terms of economic growth and the fight against unemployment is indisputable and impressive. The fight against demographic ageing, a major challenge that has been identified for many years, has been more chaotic if we refer for example to the reception of one million migrants in 2015. Public investment appears to be affected according to OECD standard, the digital lag is considerable and the energy transition is stalled.

The question of the energy mix is worth considering. Mrs Merkel was unable – or unwilling – to reverse the decision taken before her to close the nuclear power stations and to keep the coal industry in operation. On a subject that has become essential, she did not appear as a woman of state but as a short-sighted manager who earned her entire work the label of « Merkelism ». Germany remains the biggest polluter in Europe today. If it is good that it has committed itself resolutely to the production of electric cars, this will not compensate that.

« Merkelism », made of a legendary technique in the non-confrontational approach to problems and their balanced resolution, has indeed many perverse effects. The practice of political cohabitation over a long period of time could only worsen them. Very few fingers with one hand are enough to count the great achievements of the Chancellor. It is not so far as its ambiguous position between East and West and the nature of European commitment that does not lead to questioning. Frau Merkel was right to spare China, as much as possible, for the greater benefit of the German automobile  industry in particular; She fought well and with great skill to save Nord Stream 2. 

In this regard, there was undoubtedly a price to be paid which was the maintenance without blinking – and even desired – in the security dependence on the United States. The Franco-German « couple » remained totally silent in the crisis of the submarine contract for Australia and the mechanical invocation of it becomes more and more obsolete, even ridiculous. To be blunt, Mrs Merkel has never shown any real interest in the political construction of Europe. As a precondition, a greater effort in the field of common security, there are obvious reasons for this timidity. The question has never been clarified, in the CDU in particular, since Chancellor Adenauer but it will be necessary that the epigones of the Chancellor one day express their position. The British had at least the courage of their opinions towards Europe.

« Merkelism », the product of prudence and skill consumed, has become an addiction likely to affect Germany itself. “Mutti,” the nation’s guardian mother, ultimately remained the “Mädchen,” a nickname that Helmut Kohl, her mentor in politics, gave her. Due to a fundamental pusillanimity, the absence of clear orientations, incessant partisan combinations and, quite frankly, a deficient vision, German opinion is totally disoriented. This is the main cause of the results of the 26 September election for the Bundestag – Mrs Merkel took six months to set up her government four years ago – and not the fact that, for the first time, an outgoing chancellor did not submit to the ballot box. In another style, the «En même temps» à la française, is likely to produce comparable results. 

For the Franco-German relationship, Konrad Adenauer had made possible a reconciliation of the brave that will never be harmed; Willy Brandt had the courage to lead a clear German policy, entirely devoted to reunification, which served security in Europe and his genuflexion in the Warsaw ghetto is unforgettable; Helmut Schmidt was the friendly and dynamic partner, the advisor of a France that was modernizing and still had confidence in itself; Helmut Kohl embodied the lifelong German friend – which is admirably illustrated by the photograph taken in Verdun – even if in the euphoria of reunification it was sometimes necessary to bring him back to his senses, recognising in particular the eastern border of Oder-Neisse; Gerhard Schröder was a great and pragmatic reformer whose example should still inspire. What will be left of Frau Merkel? Were there not many opportunities? It would be cruel at this point to list those she did not want to capture.

Olaf Scholz appears as the winner of the 26 September election. It was its party, the SPD, that won the most votes and seats in Parliament (NB: 25.7%, or +5.2% in votes for -8.9% for the CDU and 24.1% in total; +53 seats versus -50 for CDU/CSU). His image seems positive in public opinion, while that of his Christian-Democrat challenger Armin Laschet has probably deteriorated irreversibly since the tragedy of the floods during the summer. However, the latter expressed the claim to form the government. 

The game for the constitution of a coalition remains open and confused, to the extent of political maneuvers and disoriented public opinion. Nevertheless, it is clear that the country is tired of a Grand Coalition SPD/CDU-CSU. For the rest, there is a juggling of a circus parade: just throw the colored balls in the air and see how they fall down; this gives the possibility of a Traffic Light Coalition with red (SPD), green and yellow (FDP)  or black (CDU/CSU), green and yellow Jamaica or finally minority Red-Red-Green by associating the SPD, the Grünen and the extreme left (Die Linke). 

It makes you dizzy. Does opinion not feel deprived of its vote now in the hands of the partisan apparatus? How can we accept that the Greens did not declare to exclude a coalition with the CDU, which is largely responsible for Germany remaining the most polluting country in Europe? How does Armin Laschet – who has a « flexible » vision of China and Russia, for which the German industrialists are undoubtedly grateful – not immediately dismiss Annalena Baerbock of the Greens who intends to strongly promote the « values » towards Moscow and Beijing? How could the FDP Liberal Party, which has a clear preference for a conservative alliance and is clearly opposed to increasing the tax burden, also – given its status as a “kingmaker”? – join an SPD Chancellor who intends to use public spending and thus taxation to finance collective investments that have been delayed for too long? 

A policy without clear will and strong leadership is ultimately not and can only lead to dead ends. And then Germany will also have to come out of its provincialism. The one that was spread out during the campaign was even more than navel-gazing and had real autism. Because the world does not wait. Gerhard Schröder was right to point this out in his latest book Letzte Chance (Last Chance) written with historian Gregor Schöllgen, about the New World Order, which we urgently need.

Last Chance, 2021

The former Chancellor, whose choices, whatever they may be, have the merit of being understandable – we remember in this respect his resolute opposition to the war in Iraq in 2003 alongside the Russian President and J. Chirac -, is concerned about the ageing of structures and ambiguities of all kinds, including those of Europe. Reformer following Helmut Kohl, without whom A. Merkel would never have been able to develop his action, he constitutes a kind of antithesis in all areas. “Schröder means Schröder” could have said T. May, as in Brexit. The formula does not help by its opacity but everyone knows who the former Chancellor is and what he still proposes. Are voters still being respected today in a mock democracy dominated by the most archaic methods, those of haggling if not manipulating the political apparatus? The democracy of the New World will have to stem this drift or it will not be. 

Afin de vous faire profiter de la meilleure expérience utilisateur, notre site Internet utilise des cookies. Cliquez sur "J'accepte" pour poursuivre votre navigation.