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Weekly update: Merkel steps down, the media speculates over successor

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

By Jack Turner


Unsurprisingly, this week’s political landscape has been dominated by the announcement of Angela Merkel’s relinquishing of the CDU party chairmanship and her intention not to stand for re-election in 2021.Naturally, this has been followed by speculation on what this could mean for Germany and Europe, on who shall be the figure to take over as well as wistful reflections on Merkel’s time as party chairman – with some reflections less positive than others.

The immediate impact may not be as sizeable as one might assume, but in the long run, particularly in Europe, her departure signals instability and uncertainty for the first time in a long time. Though, if the SPD have their say on the grand coalition, this immediate impact would be hugely exacerbated as It would ultimately prompt a general election. But let’s cross that bridge when we come to it, eh?

Elsewhere in Germany, a gang-rape case in Freiburg has prompted significant outcry, after it was revealed seven of the eight assailants were Syrian refugees, bringing into question immigration and refugee policies and prompting an increased police presence. The far-right AfD group organized a demonstration which drew around 500 supporters, but this was met by a larger counter-demonstration of 1,500.  Particularly apt amid an era of populism, anti-elitism and political polarisation, as evidenced by the political gains made by the AfD in Bavaria in October, is this sharp comparison to the 15th and early 16th century by journalist Sebastian Dümling, arguing today’s events have an early modern counterpart. Between 1475 and 1510 the political mood in ‘Germany’ was similarly tense: self-proclaimed prophets and preachers travelled through the cities to denounce the aristocratic, the elites and the church. The preachers accused these groups of no longer representing the common people (“das einfache Volk”). Certainly, this sense of disillusionment and rising anger against the established order and political elites are themes that can be seen in Germany today.

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