A few months ago, Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, faced defeat in three important state elections in a row. That should have pushed them into the arms of neighboring France. Not with a restless chancellor, a new leader and two major elections on the table. Instead, Merkel declared that “Berlin just is” and the “last word” — the last one, anyway — has gone to the ruling party. She didn’t quit. Now some key figures in the Germany’s modern political history are saying: Hey, she was wrong. She was right. For months, though, her conservative ally Angela Merkel has looked oddly like England’s Margaret Thatcher, rambling on about “broken society” and “political correctness” as she struggles to hold off a final challenge from a resurgent anti-immigrant party in a left-leaning country.
Now, she faces new accusations that her coalition is out of touch with German public opinion and looking to clip the wings of government. Even so, the German economy remains strong, and the danger of a eurozone collapse is relatively low. Germany’s next chancellor will be 57-year-old Olaf Scholz, who will replace Merkel as head of the Christian Democratic Union if she fails to get a fourth term as chancellor. That will change Germany from Merkel to Scholz, with whom the current premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hannelore Kraft, meets on Sunday. Scholz is a bearded former top federal and local bureaucrat with no formal political training. He made his name as a prosecutor investigating the Nazi war crimes policies of Germany’s Waffen SS and the “Knife Trials” of Wehrmacht officers who used such methods to do systematic mutilation to their victims.
The issue of remembrance and remembrance of responsibility for the past still plays an important role in German politics, and the current government is conflicted over whether to say that other countries are also responsible for the atrocity of the Holocaust. The Germans call this the “grand bargain,” because it holds that it is not their fault, and that they should be remembered for their greatness, not singled out by guilt. The various Christian Democratic and Social Democratic blocs have thrown different offers at each other. Merkel is sticking with the idea of forcing European allies to apologize for the Nazi slaughter.
That arrangement has reduced Merkel’s support levels to 33 percent, and the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, has long proposed instead that the Nazis should be studied only so that Germany itself can look inward, remember its past for itself, and thereby choose not to be prone to such troubles in the future. Merkel’s coalition has been calling the new candidate “realpolitik” and “reframing history,” thus delaying the reckoning with the Nazi past. But maybe she is just getting used to the old suits and ties.
Read the full story at New York Times.
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