Merkel mania: German voters want more of the Chancellor’s softly-softly approach – and so do we all

Against the backdrop of the euro crisis, her victory is more remarkable still

Share

There were few surprises in the German election campaign; even a last-minute scandal over the Green party’s paedophilia policies harked backed to the 1980s. It was also entirely predictable that Angela Merkel would secure a third term as Chancellor. What few expected, though, was the style in which she would do it.

At polling stations on Sunday, German voters delivered an unequivocal endorsement of the leader already nicknamed “Mummy”. Her Christian Democratic Union party romped home with 41.5 per cent of the vote, its best performance for more than 20 years and almost enough, with its sister party, the Christian Social Union, to achieve the outright majority that has eluded every chancellor since Konrad Adenauer in the 1950s. No wonder that even the eminently calm-and-cautious Ms Merkel was moved to describe the outcome as “a super result”.

True, under Germany’s multi-preference voting system, some of the CDU’s success can be explained by the plummeting support for its erstwhile coalition partner. Indeed, the liberal Free Democratic party fared so badly that, for the first time in its history, it will not be represented in the Bundestag. But the FDP’s near-collapse cannot account for the entirety of the CDU’s eight-point gain.

For that, Ms Merkel herself takes much of the credit. She has built her softly-softly approach into a personal brand so strong that her hand-gesture – the “Merkel rhombus” – was used as an election poster. Germans may worry about many things, from ageing infrastructure to inequality, but they trust “Angie” more than ever.

What would be an achievement in any climate is, against the backdrop of the euro crisis, more remarkable still. Outside Germany, of course, Ms Merkel is far from popular. But the opprobrium in which she is held in the austerity-hit southern eurozone overlooks the fact that her  opponents would, on paper, do little differently. In fact, without her ability to balance irreconcilable opposites – Greece’s need for a bailout, say, with German taxpayers’ resistance – and to move forward only as far as that balance can be maintained, the situation might be so much worse. It is for this reason, as much as any, that Sunday’s result is to be welcomed.

What it will mean in detail, however – for the German economy, for the euro, for David Cameron’s plans to claw back powers from Brussels – awaits the outcome of coalition negotiations now beginning. Because, despite their success, the CDU/CSU are still five seats short of an absolute majority. The most likely result is a “Grand Coalition” with the centre-left Social Democratic party. But with much reluctance among SPD supporters, it is far from a foregone conclusion.

For all the Chancellor’s undeniable triumph, the road ahead is no easier than the one behind was. Any number of thorny issues were put on hold pending the vote, not least the eurozone’s putative banking union. Given the circumstances, more of the famous Merkel caution is no bad thing. But even she cannot wait forever.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Kylie has helped to boost viewing figures for the talent show  

When an Aussie calls you a ‘bastard’, you know you’ve arrived

Howard Jacobson
The number of schools converting to academies in the primary sector has now overtaken those in the secondary sector – 2,299 to 1,884 (Getty)  

In its headlong rush to make a profit, our education system is in danger of ignoring its main purpose

Janet Street-Porter
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee