Angela Merkel, the charismatic German leader who has stuck to the top job since one and a half-decades, is supposed to resign in November 2021, when the term of incumbent Christian Democratic Union (CDU) coalition government ends. The 65-year-old leader, who came to power in November 2005, will complete her fourth term as German Chancellor in November next year.
By next year, when her term ends, it’ll be a tie with Helmut Kohl- her predecessor as Chancellor who governed from 1982 to 1998- as longest-serving leader of modern Germany with 16 years at the top job. In 2018, Merkel announced that she would not seek reelection in 2021 and hand-picked Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as her successor.
In December 2018, Karrenbauer won the post of the President of CDU, the ruling party which Merkel headed from 2000 to 2018. However, her handpicked successor, resigned from the post of party president in February this year after the party’s debacle in the German state of Thuringia.
After the resignation of Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is also known as AKK, the party has three people- Armin Laschet, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia; Norbert Röttgen, a senior MP who leads the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee; and Friedrich Merz, a former senior party official and MP- in the race for the top job.
Among them, Laschet is continuity candidate; Rottgen is a Green centrist- in fashion in European politics nowadays- and Merz, a far-right candidate, is the arch-rival of the incumbent German Chancellor.
However, none of these three candidates have the capability to win over German voters and bring CDU back to power in 2021. Given the fact that CDU wants to avoid Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) to rise to power at any cost, this raises the question whether Merkel would backtrack from the statement of 2018 and seek re-election in 2021.
Merkel would be 66 next year when CDU faces the next election and looking at the age of incumbent leaders around the world, one can argue that this is no age of retirement in politics. Moreover, Helmut Kohl, the godfather on Merkel and former Chancellor himself ruled the country till the age of 68.
Since her appointed successor resigned from the post of party president, Merkel has not endorsed any successor. Given the kind authority, aura, influence, and experience she has in the party and the country, her opinion on such an important issue becomes very important. But Merkel has explicitly declined to comment on her successor and said, “You will not hear me comment on the issue… in any form or in any forum.” This strengthens the case that she might be thinking of re-election in 2021.
If Merkel goes out of the picture, the extreme right and extreme left wings in her party as well as in the country would get a boost. In the 15 years of her political career, Merkel established herself as a centrist candidate on the German political spectrum, and she would not secede to radical left or radical right. On many occasions, she has spoken against the perils of radicalism, and this is one of the reasons that continuity and incremental change seeking Germans have reelected her in the last three terms.
Germany is going through a tough time since the last few months. The Coronavirus has ravaged European economies and the European Union, which she has steered since last one and a half-decade, is on verge of collapse. She is aware of only a strong and experienced leader like her could steer Germany and the European Union from this crisis.
Therefore, it looks like Merkel will reconsider her decision to retire in 2021 in order to save Germany and the EU and seek re-election.
Moreover, she is now considered a champion of receding Global Liberal Order by the left-liberal establishment and being projected as a global leader, the ambition to lead the world might convince her to go for another term and complete 20 years tenure as the Chancellor of Germany and de facto leader of the European Union.