After barely holding on to the Chancellery, Angela Merkel latest act further confirmed the international liberal order’s worst fear: she had lost her influence. This was no longer the Angela Merkel who weeks after Donald Trump won the United States presidency anointed herself as the defender of liberalist ideals and the counterbalance to rising nationalism across the Atlantic.
On February 7, after several hours of tense negotiations with her party’s rivals from the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Merkel eventually surrendered four key government posts to the SDP: Finance, Foreign Affairs and Labor.
These government posts are considered “power centres” from which the SDP planned to anchor the government’s agenda. Prior to the start of negotiations, the SDP made it very clear they were after these ministries and would force Merkel’s hand on it.
Merkel gave a curt response on the decision she made during an interview with a television network:
“It was a painful decision. But what was the alternative?”
However the deal will have to be approved by SPD’s 464,000 members which will be carried out by mail over the next few weeks. Historically, and given the growing divisiveness within the party ranks, the deal does not appear to be done by any means,
There are members who believe approving the vote would merely represent a continuation of the party’s position as Merkel’s subordinate within the government. They are propagating an agenda for the SPD to rebuild as an opposition party.
If the SPD rejects the deal, Merkel would be in the precarious position of choosing between leading a minority government or risk another election which may further divide the party.
Alexander Mitsch, Chairman of the Values Union which is affiliated with Merkel’s Christian Democrats Union (CDU) party has voiced concern over the Chancellor’s tenure:
“Frau Merkel won’t remain Chancellor for four years because there are so many breaking points in this coalition. I’ve never seen such a sour atmosphere in the CDU.”
The CDU has led Germany’s government for 48 of the 68 years the Federal Republic of Germany’s has been in existence.
The Chancellor remains defiant despite the odds. Merkel fully intends to follow in the footsteps of her predecessor Helmut Kohl who likewise served four terms:
“I promised those four years and I’m someone who keeps promises. I totally stand behind the decision.”