BFF-45 Merkel says planned exit won’t hurt her influence abroad

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Merkel says planned exit won’t hurt her influence abroad

BERLIN, Oct 30, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel said
Tuesday she did not expect her global influence to be diminished in the run-
up to her planned exit from politics in 2021, even as the race to succeed her
gathered pace.

Merkel said Monday she would not stand for re-election in December as
leader of her centre-right CDU party, but that she planned to see out her
fourth term as German leader.

The transition period set by Merkel is however a long time in politics, and
even CDU heavyweights are publicly voicing doubts on whether she can hold on
to power until the end of her mandate.

Despite the uncertainties, Merkel, 64, insisted that she would not be
hamstrung on the world stage.

“I think that nothing will change in my bargaining position in
international negotiations,” the veteran leader said.

“One might even say that I now have more time to concentrate on my tasks as
government leader,” she said, given that she would no longer be CDU party
chief from December.

Analysts are not so sure.

Lueder Gerken from the Center for European Politics said that after
announcing her decision, “the chancellor will hardly be able to convince the
world that she can continue to be the guarantor of a certain degree of
stability in the EU.”

Observers also note that she is no longer the master of Germany’s political
calendar.

“Whether Merkel will really govern as chancellor until 2021 and then leave
politics as promised, or whether the events would suddenly become
uncontrollable for her, is no longer up to her alone,” said news weekly Der
Spiegel.

Wolfgang Schaeuble, Bundestag president and former finance minister, noted
that “there are three years to go in the legislature period. We will see if
that will really be the case.

“She is maybe now no longer as strong as (she was) at the peak of her
success,” Schaeuble added in an interview with public broadcaster Deutsche
Welle.

– Sharks are circling –

A key determining factor would be who ends up taking over from “the eternal
chancellor”, in power for 13 years and at the helm of her party for 18.

Three candidates have revealed plans to stand for the job, including CDU
general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, health minister Jens Spahn and
former chief of the party’s parliamentary group Friedrich Merz.

Announcing his candidacy on Tuesday, Merz, 62, said: “We need a new
departure and renewal with experienced and younger leaders.”

Another name touted by German media is Armin Laschet, a Merkel ally who is
also the state premier of Germany’s most populous region North Rhine-
Westphalia.

Spiegel magazine said if Kramp-Karrenbauer wins the race, “then Merkel’s
chances at staying in power are good.”

But if a critic like Spahn or Merz gets the top job, “then Merkel’s
chancellorship will likely be over more quickly.”

It is clear that the sharks are circling.

According to Bild daily, five CDU heavyweights have plotted for weeks
against Merkel.

The group had planned to hold talks to get Merkel to leave if she failed to
do so at her own initiative after the regional vote in the state of Hesse,
said Bild, without naming its sources.

As it turned out, Merkel announced her decision a day after the CDU was
hammered in the Hesse election.

She has said she would not put her thumb on the scale for any candidate,
but “will accept any democratic decision taken by my party.”

– Waning power –

Merkel long enjoyed the support of Germans as a guarantor of stability and
prosperity.

But her power has been on the wane since her 2015 decision to keep
Germany’s borders open at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis, ultimately
allowing in more than one million asylum seekers.

The mass arrivals left a deep rift in German society, and fuelled the rise
of the far-right AfD, fundamentally redrawing the political map.

Besides the CDU internal power struggle that could determine her future,
her departure could also be precipitated if a junior coalition partner, the
Social Democratic Party, pulls the plug prematurely.

The SPD will review by autumn 2019 “whether this government is still the
right place for us”, party chief Andrea Nahles said.

BSS/AFP/MRI/2236 HRS