Challenged by Martin Schulz, Merkel's free vote will appeal to liberal voters—while her personal discomfort will reassure her baseby Matthew Qvortrup / June 30, 2017 / Leave a comment
“What is she up to?” asked one of the emails I received. Another one simply stated, “How could she?” Being the biographer of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it was as if I was personally responsible for her decision to vote against marriage equality—or Ehe für alle, as the Germans call it.
After the vote in the German parliament Friday morning, Frau Merkel, stated what she has said on numerous occasions: that she believes “marriage is between a man and a woman.”
This is not a surprise. But many of my liberal friends and colleagues were aghast. “Angela” (note the intimacy) was believed to be a liberal; a poster-girl for all the values we miss in British Conservative politicians. After all, wasn’t she the one who opened the borders to the huddled masses while we pulled up the drawbridge? And wasn’t she the woman who championed workers’ rights, and green policies, in defiance of Donald Trump?
But the assumption that Angela Merkel is a soft liberal is wrong in its fundamental premise. For starters, it ignores how different British and German politics is.
Merkel is not a conservative in the sense that she could be a Tory in Great Britain. She is rather a leader of the Christian Democratic Party. The clue is in the name. The daughter of an East German pastor, Merkel is a church-going woman who is author of a book entitled Daran glaube ich: Christliche Standpunkte (“What I believe in: Christian Points of View”) It is equally telling that the most recent biography about her in her native language is Volker Resing’s book Angela Merkel: Die Protestantin—“Angela Merkel: the Protestant.”
Merkel would never say that homosexuality is a sin, but as a former Chairwoman of the Protestant Caucus in the Bundestag, she is someone who always has championed traditional values.
Above all, however, Merkel is a politician, and the debate must be understood in the context of German politics at the moment.
With a September election looming, her opponent Social Democrat Martin Schulz—whose party is 17 points behind Merkel’s in the polls—played one of his last cards: he declared that he would only enter into coalition with parties that would pass a law on gay marriage. The move was a cunning one: all parties…