She sells her strengths abroad, but weaponises her blandness at homeby Kati Krause / August 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
“In parliamentary work, ‘standstill’ may appear agonising, yet for voters it doesn’t hold any horror in times of crisis,” the late German journalist Roger Willemsen wrote after witnessing a Bundestag debate in March 2013, six months before the last general election in Germany. “The [Social Democratic] opposition may have found the government’s blockades a hard nut to crack—citizens however desire above all to maintain the status quo. For them, the inertia… isn’t an argument for voting anyone out. ‘Standstill’ simply has too good a reputation these days.”
The subsequent September 2013 election gave Angela Merkel her third term as Chancellor. As it stands, Willemsen’s observation could just as easily apply this summer. Then as now, Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) alliance was the largest party in a coalition government. Some ministers have changed and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), then the main opposition party, is today part of the government—not that it makes much of a difference. Then, the crisis Germans worried about was of the euro and Greek debt; today, it is of refugees and a shifting world order. Then, the man prodding Germans with his visions for the future with signs of increasing desperation, was Peer Steinbrück; today, it is Martin Schulz. We will be forgiven for mixing them up in 10 years’ time. In Germany, 24th September 2017 could just as well be called Groundhog Election Day.
In much of the west, voters have been keen to break things—or at the very least break with the past. The UK has voted to leave the European Union and is dallying with the idea of a radical socialist prime minister;…