German Chancellor Angela Merkel has confirmed her decision to run for a fourth term, vowing explicitly to take on the forces of anti-establishment populism currently sweeping the West.
“We are facing struggles in Europe and internationally for our values and our interests and, simply put, for our way of life,” Merkel told reporters at the headquarters of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party on Sunday night, Euractiv has reported.
“This election will be more difficult than any before it, at least not since national reunification [in 1990]” she said, pointing to a strong “polarisation of our society.”
Merkel, currently the EU’s longest-serving leader, said this had played a part in her decision to stand again as she felt many leaders were looking to her as a source of stability in “distinctly difficult, even insecure times.”
But on referring to the suggestion by some commentators that she should be considered the new “leader of the free world,” she said she was “indeed honoured, but I also find it grotesque and even absurd.”
Merkel followed up the press conference with an in-depth, 25-minute interview with German broadcaster ARD, during which she vowed to press ahead with a “strong Europe” following Brexit, Die Welt has reported.
Commenting further on her decision to run, which she appears to have made following the result of the American Presidential election, she said: “I am sure that I have taken the decision conscientiously, to the best of my knowledge and conscience.”
She also criticised rival party AfD, and anti-Islamisation movement Pegida, saying she could not understand why only those who opposed mass migration and criticised her policies were suddenly being identified as ‘of the people.’
“I am just as much ‘the people’ as others are ‘the people’,” she insisted.
“The AfD is challenging me, of course,” the Chancellor admitted, but she claimed: “I am already part of the solution.”
Hans-Joachim Maaz, a German psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who earlier this year suggested that Merkel may be suffering from “narcissism” brought on by people lauding her position as ‘mother of the nation,’ said that while Merkel was adamant she did not believe the world would collapse without her, it is possible that she thinks Germany, and her party, might.
“I think the decision is bad for the party because it obviously does not allow any alternative,” he said, adding, “One always has the impression that the men especially hide behind Mutti [‘Mother’].”
But establishment figures welcomed her candidacy.
“Merkel is the answer to the populism of our time,” said Saxony state premier Stanislaw Tillich. “She is basically the anti-Trump,” he told Redaktionsnetzwerk.
Obama, who visited Merkel at her chancellery on Friday night along with leaders from Britain, France, Spain, and Italy, also applauded her candidacy, praising her as an “outstanding partner” and adding: “If I were German and I had a vote, I might support her.”Despite the migrant crisis chipping away at her popularity, polls still put Merkel ahead.
Despite the migrant crisis chipping away at her popularity, polls still put Merkel ahead.
A survey by Kantar Emnid, released Sunday, found that 33 per cent of German voters planned to back Merkel’s CDU party. Although the figure is down nine points on the 2013 national election, it still puts the party ahead of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in Merkel’s “grand” coalition, who commanded 24 per cent. The AfD are currently on 13 per cent.