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Germany

Media and politicians respond to Merkel's hopes for fourth term as German chancellor

After months of speculation, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she will be standing for a fourth term. While some media outlets have called her a "unifying force," others ask if Germany even has another option.

European media have reacted with varying degrees of support to the announcement by German Chancellor Angela Merkel (seen above with fellow Christian Democrat David McAllister) on Sunday that she would be running as candidate for a fourth term in the 2017 elections.

Italian newspaper "La Repubblica" questioned on Monday whether Merkel's announcement was a gamble or a politically rational decision, saying that she would have to find answers to challenges "such as Germany's inevitable change into a country of immigration."

The paper also pointed to problems at the international level, including increasing Russian assertiveness in the East and a possibly more distant America under a Trump presidency.

"For historical and geopolitical reasons, Germany would be the first to feel the painful consequences," the paper warned.

Refugees queuing in Germany

The arrival of almost one million refugees in 2015 has been the source of much criticism of Merkel

Rise in right-wing populism

Spain's conservative paper "El Mundo" was full of support for Merkel, however, saying she was the "best option to curb the boom of right-wing extremism" in Germany.

"Moreover, she can not only guarantee the strength of the European Union, but also the fulfillment of growth and spending policy," the paper added.

Similarly, liberal Swedish newspaper "Sydsvenskan" described Merkel as the "unifying force in Europe and the EU - and the whole free world - which is so needed in these times when so many other things have fallen."

Another Italian newspaper, "Corriere della Sera," said Merkel's decision to stand again was "risky but inevitable." If the chancellor succeeds in her campaign, the paper said there would be "a new Angela Merkel" at the helm of the German government.

"Opening [Germany's borders] to refugees has changed her political line. And the prospect of not having to compete for a fifth term in 2021 makes her a little more courageous," the paper added, "A little."

In light of Merkel's candidacy, French paper "Le Monde" noted that the question of "the usury of power" is also likely to arise.

Should she be elected next September, another full four-year term would put Merkel on a par with her mentor Helmut Kohl who set the post-war record and presided over the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Vice President of Germany's southwestern state of Saarland Anke Rehlinger already called on Monday for a limit of 10 years in office for German chancellors. At the same time, the Social Democrat proposed extending each term from four to five years.

A 'credible alternative'?

In the Czech Republic, conservative newspaper "Lidove noviny" highlighted the issues facing the chancellor, as well as Germany's lack of alternatives had Merkel not thrown her hat into the ring.

Merkel is the "defining personality of Germany in the last decade," the paper wrote. However, it said that it had to be recognized that she "lacks a solid ideological basis, that she face problems - just like her former mentor Helmut Kohl - and that she opened the German borders for refugees."

"If Merkel had decided not to run again, what would be the credible alternative for the top spot? De facto, there is none."

Left-wing Slovakian newspaper "Pravda" said the search for a successor in Germany had repeatedly been pushed into the background due to the wider issues facing world leaders.

"The Russian campaign against Ukraine, the danger of a possible Grexit, the refugee crisis, the Brexit, the threat of the terrorism of the 'Islamic State' - in all these global events everyone has asked themselves: What is Merkel doing?" the paper wrote.

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel is widely seen as the unifying figure of the 28-member EU bloc

Black-green coalition

Closer to home, on the political stage, Green party politician Rebecca Harms said she could envisage an alliance with the CDU should the conservative party succeed in next year's election.

"Merkel has modernized and brought [the CDU] to the center [of the political spectrum] more than anyone before her," Harms told the "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung." During her time in office, Merkel has created ties with the Greens on several issues, including eurozone politics and policies on refugees,  climate change and energy. 

Harms said on Monday, however, that it was still too early to speculate about the arithmetical possibility of a "black-green" coalition, as such a combination would be known according to the German color coding of the parties.

The leader of the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD), Frauke Petry, told the German news agency DPA that she was pleased about Merkel's decision to run for the chancellery - though only because the AfD could possibly use Merkel's recent drop in popularity to its own advantage.

Petry described Merkel as a politician "who has caused dangerous immigration problems costing billions."  

Merkel's liberal refugee policy enabled the arrival of an unprecedented 890,000 migrants into Germany last year, prompting a backlash of criticism, particularly from the Christian Social Union - the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Widespread dissatisfaction with her refugee policies, particularly in Germany's east, has also boosted the AfD, which now holds seats in nine of Germany's 16 federal states.

SPD candidate still undecided

With the CDU's candidate now clear, all heads are turning to Germany's Social Democrats (SPD), who are currently the junior partner to the CDU in Merkel's "Grand Coalition." The party announced on Monday that it will announce their rival candidate in January.

SPD party leader and Germany's Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has yet to decide whether to run, while European Parliament President Martin Schulz is also considered a strong possible contender.

In another backhanded compliment, AfD's Petry said that her party would ideally like to see Schulz as the SPD's top candidate - but only, she said, because he was responsible for the failure of the EU "like no other German."

Together, Merkel and Schulz, as the "dream duo of the grand coalition," embodied the demise of Germany, Petry said.

 

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