Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced she will stand in next year’s elections for a fourth term. She made the announcement in Berlin on Sunday evening.
Addressing the media from a platform with the word “The Center” (Die Mitte) written on it in Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party colours, Merkel said on 20 November that her decision to stand was not a trivial one, for the country or for herself.
She said her motivation was based on serving Germany and in using her talents for that purpose.
“I told the CDU that I was ready to stand again,” she said. “This election will be even more difficult than those we have had before as we are facing a strong polarisation” in society.
She drew a line between Germany and the US in describing as “grotesque” the recent election campaign. Merkel said that for her, political discussion was about engagement not “fighting” and “inciting hatred.”
She said that for Germany the values of “democracy, freedom, and respect for human and individual rights,” were central pillars of the democratic process.
Months of speculation
The announcement follows months of speculation at a time when Europe and the West are facing rising populism.
Merkel has governed Germany since 2005 and is popular among voters who appreciate her as a pragmatic, down-to-earth politician under whose leadership the country has weathered the financial crisis better than most in Europe. However, she has been highly criticised and has lost popular support following her decision to let in more than one million asylum seekers stranded along the Balkan route in 2015.
Her now famous “Wir schaffen das” (“We can do this”) motto, has led to prolonged and at times heated confrontations with her Bavarian sister party, the CSU. Her refugee policies have also boosted the populist, right-wing Alternative for Germany Party (AfD), which draws support through harnessing community fears about migration and Muslims. In state elections this year, the AfD garnered up to a fifth of the popular vote.
But, as the world gears up for a turbulent year ahead, a growing number of German voters want Merkel to stay in office, according to a poll conducted on Sunday: 55 percent of those responded positively, compared to 42 per cent in August.
She also received a glowing endorsement from outgoing President Barack Obama in Berlin last week. Germans, he said, should “appreciate” Merkel. If he were German, he added, he would support her. When asked what she made of talk about her being the last defender of the liberal world, Merkel gave one of her typical matter-of-fact responses: No one country could solve everything.