Politics is often a matter of alternating opposites, as parties and nations choose leaders who seem best able to put right the faults of their predecessor. Thus calm and unifying John Major succeeded strident and divisive Margaret Thatcher. Gordon Brown, Labour to the core, succeeded interloper Tony Blair. Boris Johnson, disruptive Brexit believer, succeeded Theresa May, who was neither of those things.
Germany today, though, is in a different position. It has been led for 15 years by Angela Merkel, who has weathered periods of unpopularity to bask in unprecedented approval – so much so that she has been able to choose the time of her departure, namely the next general election, expected in September this year.
Looking ahead to that election, her party, the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union, has a commanding lead in the opinion polls, averaging about 37 per cent, with the Greens in second place on 18 per cent. The huge boost to the CDU/CSU early last year, derived from Ms Merkel’s solid handling of coronavirus, has been sustained. The Social Democrats, the CDU’s traditional rivals and its “grand coalition” partner, are on 15 per cent, while the anti-immigrant AfD (Alternative for Germany) is fourth on 10 per cent.
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