Angela Merkel’s authority has been seriously dented after her Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, threatened to resign if he is pushed to offer more concessions to Greece.
Schäuble, who proposed of “temporary” Grexit last week, also cast doubt on whether the proposed €86bn bailout will work, openly admitting to magazine Der Spiegel that he disagreed with Merkel.
“Divergent opinions are a part of democracy,” he said. “In such a case, you jointly hash out a solution. In that process, everyone has a role to play. Politicians’ responsibilities come from the offices they hold. Nobody can coerce them. If anyone were to try, I could go to the president and ask to be relieved of my duties.”
On Friday, the German Chancellor suffered the biggest ever rebellion against her leadership from within her own party, as a fifth of legislators from the centre-right CDU/CSU grouping voted against new bailout talks.
Mr Schäuble stands in the middle of this, advocating a much stronger line against Greece than Merkel. The Times says he now regularly wins standing ovations at private meetings of the parliamentary group, and was applauded during Friday’s debate.
German tabloid Bild has even published an image of him dressed as a superhero called “Euroman”.
— Noah Barkin (@noahbarkin) June 25, 2015
Meanwhile, a YouGov poll gave him a higher popularity rating among German voters than Mrs Merkel. A total of 49 per cent saying they agreed with his stance on Greece, compared to 46 per cent for the Chancellor. Angela Merkel therefore cannot afford to lose Schäuble.
If he were to resign or be sacked it could provoke a rebellion in the party and the wider country that could spell the end for her chancellorship. German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung said the rise of Schäuble marked the “end of Merkel’s omnipotence,” adding that he had “grown into a second chancellor alongside her.” “With his hard line in the Greece talks he negotiated himself into the hearts of his fellow party members. If the conservative parliamentary group could vote freely on whom they trust more on the Greece policy, Schäuble would win over Merkel.”