Merkel in the Doghouse

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german chancellor angela merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives for the weekly German government cabinet meeting on August 31, 2011 in Berlin. Photo - Sean Gallup/Getty Images

From being seen as a reliable leader, who brought vision at a time when there was a lack of it, Merkels recent approach to situations such as the Eurozone crisis and Libya policy, has broken down the once bold image Germans had of her.

Recent polls show an increasing number of Germans view her government as directionless.

Merkels recent hands-off moves could be the results of such a change in opinion. In March, the chancellor abruptly dropped her long-standing support for nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster inJapan, followed by her decision to abstain to from a UN vote authorizing military action in Libya.

Many in and outside of Germany saw the steps as cynical ploys to placate domestic opinion.

EURO ZONE DECISIONS

Merkels grip in Germany is weakening. Her approach to the euro zone’s worsening debt crisis has come under major scrutiny, as some believe that she over-did her attempts to bail out suffering euro-zone members, and agreeing to intervene in the bond markets to prop them up.

In the opinion of others, she has been shirking away from taking bold steps to prevent losing her popularity at home.

“The euro crisis entered a new phase over the past week,” the German weekly magazine, Der Spiegel stated. “Before the main question had been how the common currency could be saved. Now it is also about saving Merkel’s chancellorship. If her coalition does not deliver a majority for the enhanced euro rescue mechanism in the autumn, people close to the chancellor say, the coalition is all but finished.”

Merkel’s coalition currently enjoys a 20-seat majority in the lower house of parliament. But it hangs on a thread. If the chancellor, is attacked with dissent in her own ranks, and is forced to rely on opposition parties to pass legislation to expand the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) then it is highly plausible that her coalition could collapse and early elections would follow. The elections are actually not set to take place until the autumn of 2013.

LACK OF SECURITY

Merkels Christian Democrats (CDU) are currently standing at a weak 30% in opinion polls. The likelihood of Merkel failing to secure a majority in the EFSF vote, which may take place on September 23, still seem slim.

“I expect she will get majority backing from her own coalition,” said Gerd Langguth, a political scientist at Bonn University and biographer of Merkel. “If it’s not enough, Merkel would be forced to resign. It would lead to a crisis. No one is interested in an early election.”

Her conservative bloc which include the CDU, Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) and Free Democrats (FDP) has had a few lawmakers being rebellious but in general, the group has has shown discipline in previous euro zone aid votes.

Merkels traditional allies are growing nervous about the direction of the party. Recently it suffered another blow, when one of its regional leaders was forced to resign when it was discovered that he was having an affair with a female minor, aged 16.

SEVERE CRITICISM

Former Chancellor and Germany’s longest-serving post-war leader and father of reunification Helmut Kohl publicly shared his opinion over his protg, Angela Merkel last week. In an interview with newspaper Internationale Politik, he said her foreign policy lacked direction and risked undermining Germany’s global influence. “The enormous changes in the world can be no excuse for having no view or idea where you belong and where you are going,” he remarked.

More criticism came from senior CDU lawmaker Wolfgang Bosbach who publicly vowed to vote against the EFSF increase and popular Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen. The latter is expected to be a successor to Merkel.

After the descent of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Germany’s decision to refuse backing of the UN resolution on Libya, along with China and Russia, seems backfiring.

A spokesman for German foreign ministry said that Berlin had already earmarked 100 million euros’ worth of aid for Libya, of which two-thirds had been spent and suggested the international community would move to speed up the release of Libyan assets frozen abroad.

WESTERWELLE

For a while Merkel was able to successfully deflect blame for that decision onto her Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle. He had embarrassed the government last week by suggesting that economic sanctions had played a decisive role in forcing Gaddafi out, rather than NATO airstrikes. Westerwelle may also be forced out as foreign minister if his party is kicked out of regional parliament in Berlin and the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern next month. His departure would be seen as a symbolic blow to Merkel as well, being a close ally to the chancellor. Many analysts believe it was his success in the 2009 elections that helped push Merkel into her second term.

By far, the biggest threat to her hold on power could be the state of the German economy. The past two weeks have shown that the economy has come to a virtual halt in the second quarter of the year. Some economists believe that recession is on cards. The chancellor sailed high thanks to the resilience of Germany economy when it rebounded from the global recession and boosted employment.

But now the support is thinning as the confidence of businesses plunges day by day.

The “Gipfelkoenigen”orSummit Queen was the title given to Merkel by Germans for the feats carried out during her first term of office. She won tremendous political support when she brokered deals within the EU and G8 to deal with the Greek debt crisis. Now the very popular politician is at risk of losing the throne.

“Her downfall may not come from the euro crisis, but simply from the fact that she has lost the shine, the sure footing that she had at the start,” said Josef Joffe, editor of German weekly Die Zeit.

In her position of power, Merkel has taken some unwise steps, and if she would like to act in benefit of her country and also her position, then the chancellor and her allies need to step up, the magazine noted.

Sources: Reuters, Expatica, Deustche Welle

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