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Auf Wiedersehen, 'Mutti': How Angela Merkel’s centrist politics shaped Germany and Europe – The Conversation Australia

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Since 2005, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has been one of the most stable and enduring of political forces, both in Europe and on the global stage. During her 16 years as leader, she has won four elections for her conservative Christian Democratic Party (CDU), faced the European refugee crisis, the global coronavirus pandemic, the threat of European populism, and challenging leaders such as US President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

In September 2021, when the German elections will be held, one of the longest serving leaders of postwar Europe will leave office. She does so having steered Germany from being a “sick man of Europe” to becoming the world’s fourth largest economy.

She leaves her country and Europe with her own singular brand of “Merkelism”: the pragmatic politics of the centre marked by managing alliances and eliminating rivals; a considered pro-Europeanism and a belief in transatlantic relations; and a specific form of at times indecisive incrementalism.




Read more:
How Angela Merkel has become – and remains – one of the world’s most successful political leaders


She ‘waits and waits’

For sociologist Wolfgang Streeck, Merkel is

a postmodern politician with a premodern, Machiavellian contempt for both causes and people.

Educated in the communist former East Germany (DDR), she mastered the art, claimed biographer and Der Spiegel deputy editor-in-chief Dirk Kurbjuweit, of governing by silence, being cautious, and at times inscrutable, with her words:

She waits and waits to see where the train is going and then she jumps on the train.

In 2003, she pushed her conservative party into the choppy waters of deregulation and neo-liberal economics, a move that almost lost her the election to the Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder, another market “reformer” who arguably set the conditions she would thrive in. After becoming chancellor, she proceeded to clean the party stables of neo-liberals and become a key centrist, with the assistance of the Grand Coalition comprising the remains of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

In domestic policy, she abolished military conscription, accepted, after initial reservation, single-sex marriage, and supported the introduction of a minimum wage in 2015. In approaching COVID-19, she demonstrated enviable skills in crisis management, leading to approval ratings of 72%.

Crisis management also marked her European policy, notably in saving the euro during the global financial crisis of 2009. But this came with its costs, with Merkel devoted to balancing the books and maintaining tight budgets to preserve the monetary union. Indebted countries such as Greece risked bankruptcy and a possible exit from the Eurozone.

Merkel, through her stern Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, insisted on austerity measures in bailout negotiations. Greece would eventually be aided at the expense of its financial sovereignty.

Merkel’s ability to morph has served her well

Throughout her chancellorship, Merkel has been able to change course abruptly to suit the political mood. Having convinced the Bundestag that phasing out nuclear energy born from the Red-Green coalition of 2001 was bad (an extension of operating times by eight to 14 years was proposed), Merkel proceeded, in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, to order the closure of eight of the country’s 17 nuclear plants with a despot’s urgency.

This became the prelude to the policy of Energiewende, the “energy transition” aimed at phasing out all nuclear power plants by 2022 and a sharp shift towards decarbonising the economy.

Merkel the shape-changer was again on show during Europe’s refugee crisis. She showed much initial enthusiasm in 2015 for new arrivals, ignoring both German and EU law mandating registration in the first country of entry into the EU before seeking resettlement within the zone. Refugees gathered in Budapest were invited into Germany as part of “showing a friendly face in an emergency”.

Merkel’s ‘friendly face’ towards refugees in 2015 did not last long.
AAP/EPA/Sebastian Kahnert

This friendly face did not last long. A riot marked by rampant sexual assault at Cologne Central Station on New Year’s Eve in 2015, a good deal of it captured on smart phones, served to harden her approach to the new arrivals. She promised more deportations and reining in family reunification rules.

Germany’s place in the world

In various areas of foreign policy, Merkel has also left her centrist, and at times inconsistent, mark. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 led to her persuading the EU to impose sanctions on Moscow. She has also been a critic of Putin’s human rights record, notably towards dissident and opposition figures. But such human rights criticism comes with limits. The controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which will increase German dependence on Russian energy, has not been stopped.




Read more:
Germany’s (not so) grand coalition may cause ripple effects on European refugee policy


Towards China, the chancellor has also taken divergent, at times eyebrow-raising approaches. The security risks of Chinese 5G telecommunications have been rebuffed, with Germany making an agreement with Huawei to build 5G networks in the country subject to safeguards. Merkel was also instrumental in pushing through an EU-China investment deal, despite criticism of Beijing’s human rights record towards Hong Kong protestors and the long-suffering Uighur minority. As Judy Dempsey observes,

Merkel’s support for human rights and the rule of law doesn’t square with her policy towards China.

Like Merkel’s mentor Helmut Kohl was to discover, staying power is never eternal. Kohl lasted eight years as chancellor of West Germany before leading a united Germany for another eight. It is worth recalling who laid the final, cleansing blow to Kohl’s leadership in the wake of the anonymous donations scandal known as the Schwarzgeldaffäre: a certain Angela Merkel’s December 1999 contribution to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung calling for her former patron’s resignation and political banishment. “I brought my killer,” reflected Kohl ruefully. “I put the snake on my arm.”

An undated photo of Merkel, then women and youth minister, beside Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
AAP/AP

Merkel has also found that power, in time, wears out those who wield it. Critics, such as Friedrich Merz, former leader of the chancellor’s parliamentary caucus, and Roland Koch, former minister president of Hesse, became bolder. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer was particularly critical of Merkel’s refugee policies.

The far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) now has a foothold in all 16 regional parliaments. The Greens have been polling strongly, while the Left Party and Free Democrats have doggedly maintained their presence. The day after the poor showing in the state elections in Hesse, Merkel announced she would not be seeking re-election as leader of the Christian Democrats. Nor would she be running again as chancellor in 2021.

Now, the CDU has another leader, Armin Laschet, who is very much committed to the centrist brand of politics Merkel made famous. Whether he becomes the next chancellor is far from assured. Markus Söder, the Bavarian premier, is far more popular.

However, Laschet’s presence suggests that Merkelism, despite the departure of the leader many Germans call Mutti (mother), will continue in some form.

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Week In Politics: House Approves $1.9 Trillion Pandemic Relief Package – NPR

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The Saudi crown prince may escape punishment for his order to kill a columnist. A pandemic relief package is moving through Congress. Donald Trump remains popular with conservative activists.



SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A few acronyms to chew over this morning – hope it doesn’t make breakfast taste flat – MBS, CPAC, OMB, if we have the time. Joining us now to spell it all out, NPR senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning. Hope things are A-OK with you, Scott.

SIMON: (Laughter) Oh, I walked into that, didn’t I? Of course, MBS is what they call Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince. U.S. officials say that he approved the grisly murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 – approved it, lied about it afterwards. Not clear if President Biden will do anything in response to this finding.

ELVING: You know, the role of MBS in this murder has been widely known, both inside and outside the intel community, for roughly two years. But the Trump administration was pursuing an ever-closer relationship with the Saudis, and especially and particularly MBS. And that had a lot to do with arms sales and Israel. So the report was not released, and there was a general refusal to acknowledge the known facts.

Now, the new administration is making more of the reports public but still not doing much about it, at least not yet. The White House says we should stay tuned but suggesting only that the Saudis are on some sort of probation now. And that seems to be the best judgment within Biden’s security team. It’s not good enough for a lot of Biden’s own voters who were expecting much more severe consequences for MBS and for the Saudi regime.

SIMON: It’s irresistible to point out – first military action of the Biden administration launched this week, an airstrike against Syria because Iranian-backed militias there had attacked American assets in the region. That gets an airstrike. Saudi Arabia gets a summary.

ELVING: Yes, President Biden said that strike was a message to Iran to, quote, “be careful. You can’t act with impunity,” unquote. And in substance, it was a far more consequential response than Biden made to the Saudis, a contrast that, as you suggest, made the slap on the wrist for MBS all the more troubling.

SIMON: Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC, this weekend in Orlando, the largest gathering of conservative activists. Apparently, it includes an inflatable golden bust of Donald Trump. Any room for Republicans like Liz Cheney of Wyoming or Adam Kinzinger of Illinois?

ELVING: Well, what’s the opposite of a welcome mat, Scott? Maybe skull and crossbones on the door? The obvious question is how big a tent the Republicans want. Will it be Reagan’s or Bush’s or Trump’s tent? And will those people who were not welcome at CPAC be part of the party’s campaigns in 2022 and 2024? We’ll stay tuned.

SIMON: A $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package has passed the House, and President Biden spoke about that today at the White House.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We are one step closer to putting $1,400 in the pockets of Americans. We are one step closer to extending unemployment benefits for millions of Americans who were shortly going to lose them. We are one step closer to helping millions of Americans feed their families and keep a roof over their head. We are one step closer to getting our kids safely back in school.

SIMON: But, Ron, Senate rules won’t allow another thing that the president wanted, which is a hike in the minimum wage.

ELVING: The good news for the White House is that the rest of this relief bill seems remarkably popular, even with some Trump voters. So with the minimum wage issue set aside to be dealt with separately later this year possibly, the overall bill seems increasingly likely to be law.

SIMON: Finally, Neera Tanden is President Biden’s pick to lead OMB, the Office of Management and Budget. As a partisan political figure, she made some colorful observations about some U.S. senators whose votes she may not get now.

ELVING: One lesson here is that a 50-50 Senate truly empowers the individual senator. So losing one or two can cost you your power to act. And that’s a lesson we’re likely to learn over and over. And another lesson is that even in the age of Trump Twitter, what others say on social media can still come back to haunt them.

SIMON: NPR’s senior Washington editor Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott.

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Equal Voice delegate in B.C. says gender equality in politics should be considered the norm, not a revolution – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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Maritha Louw, one of three Lower Mainland women selected as delegates for Equal Voice Daughters of the Vote , has often been told she’s too loud and that she shouldn’t share her opinions quite so much.

As a student at a Christian secondary school in Abbotsford, she was even grilled on her dreams of becoming a lawyer. “A classmate asked me how I was going to take care of the children when I had a family?” said Louw.

The consequence is that Louw, now a 20-year-old political science student at Trinity Western University, says she is even more committed to speaking her mind. “I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind because if you don’t stand up for yourself there might not be anyone to stand up for you,” said Louw.

Louw said she’s interested in the power the younger generation has to make the world a better place and that’s exactly what she hopes to do.

Although Louw doesn’t plan on pursuing a political career, she said she is hoping the online summit, which brings together gender-diverse women and youth from across Canada, will give her the opportunity to learn from others, and perhaps even “challenge some of the MPs on the Hill currently.”  Delegates who represent their ridings in the March 8 virtual mock Parliament will meet with MPs and other officials in virtual sessions to learn more about Canada’s political processes.

“It would be great to see a time where having an equal amount of women in politics wouldn’t be seen as record-breaking, or revolutionary ideal,” said Louw.

Barbara Szymczyk, 28, who will be representing Vancouver Centre, said a highlight of the process before the summit was the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with her MP, Hedy Fry.

Szymczyk doesn’t take the opportunity to be involved in the democratic process for granted. “I grew up with my mom always reinforcing how fortunate I was to live in a country with a well-established democratic system like Canada,” said Szymczyk, whose mother grew up in Poland. “I hold a deep gratitude for the right to vote.”

“It needs to be acknowledged that not all women got the right to vote 100 years ago,” Szymczyk said.  “Black, Asian and Indigenous identifying women got the right much later.”

She’s fascinated with decision-making processes, served three terms as a senator in student government at SFU, and doesn’t rule out a possible future in politics.

“Taking part in Daughters of the Vote will help me in that journey of discovering in how I can best support Canada’s democratic system,” she said.

So what, exactly, did she learn in that conversation with Fry, Canada’s longest serving female member of Parliament?

“She shared a piece of advice she got from (former prime minister Jean Chretien) about needing a thick skin: When you are in politics 15 per cent of people will support you all the time and 15 per cent of people that will have more of a negative attitude and there will be lots of people in between — your job is to serve all of them.”

Daughters of the Vote is a meeting of 338 delegates representing every federal riding in Canada, dedicated to increasing women’s participation in the political arena by connecting them to those already serving in office, and will take place online this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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Equal Voice delegate says gender equality in politics should be considered the norm, not a revolution – Vancouver Sun

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Equal Voice Daughters of the Vote hopes to increase opportunities for women in political leadership as part of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote

Article content

Maritha Louw, one of three Lower Mainland women selected as delegates for Equal Voice Daughters of the Vote, has often been told she’s too loud and that she shouldn’t share her opinions quite so much.

As a student at a Christian secondary school in Abbotsford, she was even grilled on her dreams of becoming a lawyer. “A classmate asked me how I was going to take care of the children when I had a family?” said Louw.

The consequence is that Louw, now a 20-year-old political science student at Trinity Western University, says she is even more committed to speaking her mind. “I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind because if you don’t stand up for yourself there might not be anyone to stand up for you,” said Louw.

Louw said she’s interested in the power the younger generation has to make the world a better place and that’s exactly what she hopes to do.

Although Louw doesn’t plan on pursuing a political career, she said she is hoping the online summit, which brings together gender-diverse women and youth from across Canada, will give her the opportunity to learn from others, and perhaps even “challenge some of the MPs on the Hill currently.”  Delegates who represent their ridings in the March 8 virtual mock Parliament will meet with MPs and other officials in virtual sessions to learn more about Canada’s political processes.

Article content

Maritha Louw, one of three Lower Mainland women selected as delegates for Equal Voice Daughters of the Vote.
Maritha Louw, one of three Lower Mainland women selected as delegates for Equal Voice Daughters of the Vote. Photo by Handout /PNG

“It would be great to see a time where having an equal amount of women in politics wouldn’t be seen as record-breaking, or revolutionary ideal,” said Louw.

Barbara Szymczyk, 28, who will be representing Vancouver Centre, said a highlight of the process before the summit was the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with her MP, Hedy Fry.

Szymczyk doesn’t take the opportunity to be involved in the democratic process for granted. “I grew up with my mom always reinforcing how fortunate I was to live in a country with a well-established democratic system like Canada,” said Szymczyk, whose mother grew up in Poland. “I hold a deep gratitude for the right to vote.”

“It needs to be acknowledged that not all women got the right to vote 100 years ago,” Szymczyk said.  “Black, Asian and Indigenous identifying women got the right much later.”

She’s fascinated with decision-making processes, served three terms as a senator in student government at SFU, and doesn’t rule out a possible future in politics.

“Taking part in Daughters of the Vote will help me in that journey of discovering in how I can best support Canada’s democratic system,” she said.

So what, exactly, did she learn in that conversation with Fry, Canada’s longest serving female member of Parliament?

“She shared a piece of advice she got from (former prime minister Jean Chretien) about needing a thick skin: When you are in politics 15 per cent of people will support you all the time and 15 per cent of people that will have more of a negative attitude and there will be lots of people in between — your job is to serve all of them.”

Daughters of the Vote is a meeting of 338 delegates representing every federal riding in Canada, dedicated to increasing women’s participation in the political arena by connecting them to those already serving in office, and will take place online this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

dryan@postmedia.com

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