merkel: Key things to know about the German election


BERLIN: After 16 years in power, Angela Merkel he will retire as chancellor after the general election on September 26, which will leave a great void in German politics.
In the run-up to a vote that will mark a sea change for Europe’s largest economy, the race to replace Merkel is open, as is the question of what the next government will look like.
The Social Democrats (SPD) currently lead the polls, ahead of Merkel’s conservative CDU-CSU alliance in second place and the Greens in third place.
Merkel, 67, announced that her current and fourth terms in office would be “the last” in October 2018, when her CDU had just suffered an electoral setback in the state of Hesse.
The decision marks the first time since 1949 that a sitting chancellor has failed to run for re-election.
First appointed Chancellor on November 22, 2005, Merkel has been in office for almost as long as Helmut Kohl, Germany’s oldest leader who was in power for just over 16 years (5,869 days).
He has already surpassed Konrad Adenauer, the chancellor credited with reviving the economy after World War II and who ruled West Germany for 14 years.
The economy and the future of German industry have been important issues during the election campaign.
The country’s flagship auto industry is facing an existential crisis precipitated by the decline of the combustion engine and its consequences for the 800,000 workers employed in the sector.
Digitization has also been an issue, although Germany is “far behind” on this, according to Paul maurice, member of the Franco-German Studies Committee of the French Institute of International Relations.
Climate change has also been a major issue, especially after deadly floods hit western Germany in July, killing more than 180 people, a disaster that experts have linked to global warming.
However, he says Maurice, the campaign has been “very focused (on the person), not talking enough about party programs”, a phenomenon that suggests it could be due to the “Merkel effect”.
As the most powerful country in Europe, Germany plays a key role in the European Union.
From the financial crisis in the eurozone to the conflict in Ukraine and the thorny issue of migration, Merkel has left deep traces in European politics.
The arrival of a new chancellor will be a big change for the bloc, with the Franco-German relationship, sometimes unstable but crucial, very well focused, also because France will go to the polls in April 2022.
Once a new government is established, Germany is expected to give new impetus to the European Union, says Maurice.
Merkel cannot just go home and stand up as soon as the elections are over, but is expected to continue to lead the country until her successor is elected by the lower house of Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag.
Typically, the party with the most votes will try to form a coalition with one or two other parties, which then together will work out a roadmap for the future government in the form of a “coalition contract.”
There will be informal talks first, followed by actual coalition negotiations.
In 2005, the CDU-CSU and the SPD took two months to form the so-called grand coalition. But after the September 2017 elections, the negotiations dragged on until February 2018.
The CDU-CSU first tried to reach an agreement with the Greens and the liberal FDP, but the Liberals withdrew from the talks, forcing the Conservatives to settle for another alliance with the SPD.

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