The German Federal Election: Will Angela Merkel Stand Her Ground?
On September 13, GMF President Karen Donfried joined a panel discussion analyzing the September 24 German federal election hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. The conversation was led by Bruce Stokes, director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center in Washington, DC. Below is an excerpt from the event transcript.
STOKES: Karen, you run one of the major German-American think tanks, and you’ve had the European portfolio of the National Security Council in part of the Obama administration. What do you think are the implications for German-American relations and transatlantic relations of a renewal of the Merkel mandate? And do you expect any new developments in U.S.-European relations in the wake of the election, say with regard to Russia or NATO or any of the other kind of issues that seem to be at the center of the transatlantic relationship these days?
DONFRIED: Well, it’s—I want to play off something that Helga said, which talked about how resilient the German system is and about the boring outcome, which is Chancellor Merkel continues on. I think, from a U.S. perspective, we all focus on Merkel because we have a presidential system, not a parliamentary system. And the fact that Angela Merkel has proven to be as resilient as she is and this is now a boring election is surprising. If we a year ago had been having this conversation, we would have said, boy, is Angela Merkel a spent force. She’s closing out her third term as chancellor. Germans have had it. I mean, that crazy refugee policy she pursued, which was so unpopular. And the fact that she is far and away the most popular politician in Germany 10 days before the election is really striking. So I just think we should remind ourselves that this was not a foreordained outcome. And this woman, whom one would have thought an unlikely chancellor from the beginning—a woman running for the Christian Democratic Union who is married, divorced, remarried, has no children; who is from the East; who’s a scientist. So she is quite a striking political figure in Germany.