Tags: Coronavirus | virus | germany | merkel | pandemic

Coronavirus Pandemic Shakes Up German Politics

german chancellor angela merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (MICHAEL KAPPELER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

By Sunday, 29 March 2020 05:12 PM Current | Bio | Archive

In the last few weeks, the coronavirus has had a major impact on the succession of Germany's long-serving Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Nervous about the virus, the leadership of Merkel's CDU (conservative) party postponed a meeting scheduled for April 25 to choose a new chairman. By all accounts, the newly elected chairman would assume the party helm and be its chancellor nominee after Merkel's scheduled retirement in 2021.

To further complicate matters, the frontrunner for the chairmanship revealed last week that he has coronavirus. Friedrich Merz, 64, a former CDU floor leader in Germany's Bundestag (parliament) and an archrival of Merkel's for nearly two decades, said he is quarantining himself.

A harsh opponent of Merkel's liberal immigration policy, Merz is also a strong fiscal conservative. The traditional Roman Catholic Merz is a strong proponent of protecting persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

Led by Bundestag Speaker Wolfgang Schaueble, himself a revered figure on the right, most of the CDU's right-of-center figures had rallied to Merz. By most accounts, Merz was the favorite for the all-important chairmanship and the chancellorship over two more moderate rivals: Armin Laschet, the head of the CDU in the populous North Rhine-Westphalia, and Norbert Rottgen, a former environment minister under Merkel and a champion of transatlanticism.

But given the postponement of the leadership contest and the sidelining of Merz, some observers who spoke to Newsmax believe the situation could be changing.

"The race is still wide open," said Martin Klingst, the former U.S. bureau chief of the venerable publication Die Zeit and a bestselling author. "I think Merz would be good for the political hygiene but it might well be Laschet because he's a governor and now always in the news because he's leading the state most impacted by coronavirus."

Former Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a member of the CDU's Bavarian sister party CSU, told Newsmax, "Crisis scenarios traditionally don't help those on the sidelines giving more or less clever remarks. Friedrich would have had a good chance without [the COVID-19 virus], the equation has shifted in favor of those who are currently in charge."

Hovering over any talk of German politics is the hard-line, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party. Now the third-largest party in the Bundestag, the AfD could easily get enough votes in the next general election to force itself into the next government. Many CDU members have long seen Merz as the candidate capable of wooing conservative voters away from the AfD back to their fold.

Whether he is positioned to do so and when remain uncertain so far.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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In the last few weeks, the coronavirus has had a major impact on the succession of Germany's long-serving Chancellor Angela Merkel.
virus, germany, merkel, pandemic
Sunday, 29 March 2020 05:12 PM
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