At what is a critical juncture for Europe, its natural leader has been dealt a heavy blow, shaking the structure to its core. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will try to stay in office for the length of her term, but faces an uphill battle.
After taking responsibility for the center-right’s significant losses in recent elections in the federal states of Bavaria and Hesse, the chances of her actually completing her tenure are uncertain, and the same goes for the Grand Coalition she heads.
The 64-year-old German leader, who has already served as chancellor for 13 years, announced that she will not be seeking a new term and will step down from the presidency of the Christian Democrats – decisions that point to a loss of political power.
Just a few months ago she had said that the two positions go together, safeguarding the government’s stability. She seems to have changed her mind after the CDU’s defeat in Hesse, its worst performance in 50 years, and in Bavaria, where its sister party, the Christian Social Union, also suffered a trouncing.
As the end of Merkel’s lengthy tenure at the helm of Germany and Europe looms on the horizon, the shift in political direction across the continent is cause for serious concern. The strengthening of extreme voices in many countries is growing to existential proportions and is becoming a threat to the European Union as we know it.
It is not just the elections in Germany, the EU’s strongest member, but also Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc, while in France, Emmanuel Macron appears to be fast falling below initial expectations, and concerns are even more acute regarding political developments in Italy, the eurozone’s third-largest economy.
The tsunami of populism seems to be sweeping everyone up. And most of the EU’s political leaders, often victims of many of their own choices, appear unable to navigate through the turbulence and deal with the phenomenon, stranding Europe in the middle of a storm without captain or compass.