(139): After 16 years, Germans vote for Merkel’s successor


Muhsin Ibrahim

German Chancellor Angela Merkel doesn’t need any introduction. Divorced and with a doctorate in Physics, Merkel, 67, has been a leader of Germany for sixteen years. She is the first woman to lead Europe’s economic powerhouse and the beacon of democracy.

Chancellor Merkel wanted to leave in 2016. However, many people, including world leaders, encouraged her to stay. With Donald Trump coming to power in the US, Brexit knocking on the door of the European Union and the smoke of refugee crises still smouldering, almost everyone knew that Merkel was the best in that crucial position. Thus, she re-contested in 2017 and, expectedly, won.

But, whatever has a beginning has an end. Germans go to poll tomorrow, Sunday 26, 2021, to elect Merkel’s successor. The electorates are practically voting for parties, not a particular candidate for the chancellery. The parties would, of course, want to have the majority to form a government, but it does not happen. Often if not always, a party will have to negotiate with another party – or even other parties – to have enough votes to appoint a chancellor in the Bundestag. The negotiations can take months.

There are three chief contestants from three major political parties. They are 60-year-old Armin Laschet (CDU/CSU), 40-year-old Annalena Baerbock (Greens) and 62-year-old Olaf Scholz (SPD). The first, Mr Laschet, is the current Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia (where Cologne is) and leader of Merkel’s party, CDU.

Despite Merkel’s endorsement of Mr Laschet, he is unlikely to win. It may surprise you to know that what may cause him this defeat is mere laughter. Deadly flooding killed people in Germany and some neighbouring countries in July. The President of Germany visited a town destroyed by the catastrophic flood. While the President was delivering a sombre speech, a camera caught Mr Laschet laughing behind him. Since that faux pas, many people have lost confidence in him.

Ms Baerbock is young, energetic and confident and started her campaign with a lot of optimism. Nonetheless, her party does not have enough clout to win nationally. But, that is not the real issue for their candidate. You may also find it astonishing to hear what has befallen Baerbock’s candidacy and tarnished her reputation. It was possible plagiarism and padding of her CV.

Olaf Scholz is Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Finance. So far, opinion polls favour his chances of succeeding Merkel. Unlike the two other leading contestants, he has almost no major ‘sin’ affecting his campaign. Moreover, his party, SPD, was in power until Merkel’s outstanding victory in 2005. Thus, they are thirsty for a win and are therefore doing everything possible to come back.

Frau Merkel will be greatly missed. People around the world will never forget her extraordinary benevolence during the 2015 refugee crisis. As a German resident with no right to vote yet, I wish for the best outcome in the elections. May we continue to live in peace and prosperity, amin.

Muhsin Ibrahim is a Nigerian. He studies and works at the Institute of African Studies and Egyptology of the University of Cologne. He can be reached via muhsin2008@gmail.com.


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