There is growing speculation in Germany that Chancellor Angela Merkel will not complete her mandate, which runs until 2021, if the current left-right “grand coalition” does not fare well in the EU election this Sunday.
In that case, Merkel could be replaced “from within”, but the Social Democratic Party (SPD) has already made clear it would not support Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Merkel’s successor at the helm of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), in case of snap elections.
Meanwhile, on 30 May, Merkel is set to give her so-called ‘commencement speech’ before a group of Harvard graduates, already seen by many as her farewell address.
In March 2018, the CDU) together with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), agreed on a 177-page document that lays out the policies the new government has committed to pursuing over the next four years in power.
Following intense political negotiations, the coalition deal was finalised more than five months after the September 2017 national elections.
The main opposition parties are the Greens (Bündnis 90/ Die Grünen), the pro-business Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP) party and the far-right, anti-migration Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, which became the first far-right party to make it to the Bundestag in post-World War Two Germany.
Despite rumours about Merkel’s early departure, CDU chief Kramp-Karrenbauer has said she has no plan to push her mentor out.
“The chancellor and the government were elected for an entire legislative term and the citizens rightly expect them to take seriously the commitment that came with the election,” Kramp-Karrenbauer told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
“So I can rule out the possibility that I will work deliberately to seek a change earlier,” she added.
AKK fights for Merkel succession in European election test. “She has to prove that the CDU can win elections with her. “If the party does badly, Merz’s supporters will say ‘we told you so” https://t.co/fzwgv2ycJ6 via @financialtimes #Merkel #AKK #Europeanelections2019 #Weber
— Alex von Witzleben (@AlexWitzleben) May 19, 2019
On 16 May, Merkel denied at a press conference in Berlin speculation suggesting that she is eyeing the European Council presidency. She said she was not “available for any other political office, no matter where this might be, even in Europe”.
The polls: CDU/CSU still lead as Greens rise
According to the latest polls, CDU/CSU stands at 28% and the SPD at 15%. This practically means that the “grand coalition” is expected to lose 20% compared to what it achieved in 2014.
The Greens from Bündnis 90/ Die Grünen will most probably benefit from the grand coalition’s shrinkage. In the polls, they score 19%, followed by far-right AfD and the pro-business party FDP, both at 7%.
When it comes to German voters’ criteria in the EU elections, they prioritise the environment protection (34%) and migration (32%), a Die Welt survey recently found.
Despite its size and influence, the last time Germany had a president of the European Commission was in 1967, when it was Walter Hallstein.
This drought is likely to continue after the EU elections, even though the candidate of the European Parliament’s biggest group, the European People’s Party (EPP), is a German – Manfred Weber, who comes from Merkel’s sister party, the CSU.
The Chancellor has indicated in an interview that she has long been sceptical about the Spitzenkandidat process.
According to a European diplomat quoted by the AFP, Merkel took to heart one of French President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks made during a press conference in Sibiu two weeks ago.
Macron had hinted that the EU should not settle on the worst candidate for the post of new Commission president. He didn’t elaborate but Weber was clearly the target. The Bavarian is not well regarded in a number of member states and this feeling is shared by many in the Brussels bubble, which irritates the EPP and Germany.
Macron’s position is nonetheless being considered, but Germany is preparing a tit-for-tat veto against Michel Barnier, the same way France will be vetoing Manfred Weber.
A less dramatic outcome of the EU elections might be a cabinet reshuffle: Justice Minister Katarina Barley, the SPD’s top candidate for the EU elections, is expected to move to the new EU Parliament and thus free up one post in Angela Merkel’s government.
There are already heated debates in the CDU about Ursula von der Leyen (defence), Peter Altmaier (economy) and Anja Karliczek (education), and in the CSU about Horst Seehofer (interior) and Gerd Müller (development), possibly having to leave the government.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos/Zoran Radosavljevic]