It’s a bit early to say goodbye to him. But it is already time to consider the future without it. Angela Merkel is not running for parliamentary elections on September 26 in Germany. Without a mandate as a deputy, she will not be able to re-apply for the post of chancellor. It was his choice, announced three years ago. It is also this programmed erasure that has ensured its popularity in recent years. We will still see for some time on our screens his sullen face, his tight silhouette. She will remain the reigning chancellor until the winning parties in Sunday’s election ratify a coalition agreement. She will therefore still leave her mark on the march of her country. But for many in Germany – and in the first place herself – Angela Merkel has had her day. So here is the time for a first assessment.
President of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), she will have exercised power for sixteen years. And ruled for years that have rarely been happier for his country. Germany had gone through the XIXe and the XXe centuries in a hustle and bustle of success and defeat, of glory and shame. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and its reunification in 1990, it has stabilized within its borders and deployed comfortably in the heart of Europe. Angela Merkel took the reins of a country whose economy was being driven by China’s spectacular growth. She had the wisdom to reinforce the model and not to inflict any jolts on it. The Germans asked for more.
Europeans are more divided. On the continent too, the Chancellor brought stability and predictability, two precious assets in a hectic world. But his risk aversion was costly during the debt crisis of 2008-2015. Der Spiegel nicknamed her “Ms. No”. Angela Merkel has never wanted to depart from a moral conception of public spending which sees deficits as a weakness, or a mistake. The pandemic had to shake the main economic partners of Germany for it to agree to break the taboo of a common debt of the countries of the European Union.
So where does Angela Merkel get so much admiration? Many perceive in her a relationship to power which favors a sense of responsibility. This scientist who obtained a thesis in quantum physics rationally poses the problems and seeks reasonable compromises. This pastor’s daughter never gives in to vanity and seeks the common good as much as possible. Discreet, his faith serves as a compass. “The prospect that God exists makes it possible to remain humble”, she explained one day. “Not always believing yourself to be the center of the world, accepting others, being aware of your faults, your mistakes. “Love your neighbor as yourself “, I find this idea remarkable (1). “
Faithful for sixteen years to her extraordinary sobriety, the Chancellor is about to turn the page. For his country, it is time to change tack, to take up new challenges. A reassuring totem will fade away. It is a little scary. But it’s also stimulating.
(1) Quoted in It was Merkel, by Marion Van Renterghem,
Les Arènes, 2021, 324 p., € 21.90