The Merkel era ends and a period of European uncertainty begins
It is interesting to see the extent to which Europe and the world today regret the end of Angela Merkel's reign. Her figure undoubtedly goes beyond her position as German chancellor and has ended up becoming one of the few pillars that Europe and the Western world had to face the crises and populist demagogies that have been on the rise in recent years. She has been in power for sixteen years and has dealt with affability, rigour and forcefulness with the great world leaders, from Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin, who have tried unsuccessfully to belittle her and have turned her, on the rebound, into a model of non-aggressive leadership.
Her conciliatory, pacifist and reflective character - it is worth remembering that she has a scientific background - has given stability to her country and to Europe, but has also prevented a forceful response to the anti-democratic actions of leaders such as Viktor Orbán, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Xi Jinping or Putin himself. For the sake of social peace, or for the interests of German companies in the world, her goal has tended more towards appeasement than troublemaking.
Curiously, in spite of being a conservative politician, a leader in pectore of the European People's Party and, therefore, the main person responsible for conservative, liberal policies and advocates of maximum austerity in public spending, Merkel has not been seen as a new Margaret Thatcher - the British neoliberal leader who wiped out a large part of the European welfare state - but as a pragmatic and realistic politician. Perhaps because during most of these years she has had to share government with the Social Democrats, she has had a more conciliatory profile on social issues and has had to accept, even over the heads of her party, more progressive policies in areas such as gay marriage and the reduction of nuclear energy.
Merkel has been the leader who has guided Europe, for better and for worse, through a maze of crises - from the euro crisis to the pandemic crisis and the migrant crisis - that have continued to unfold. But now it is time for the withdrawal. It will not be immediate, but the results of today's Bundestag elections may mark the beginning of a new era in which his legacy may be called into question. Nothing is clear because without her leadership the CDU-CSU could lose the chancellorship, given that her successor, Armin Laschet, has failed in the polls. At the moment he is ahead of the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz and the Green candidate, Annalena Baerbock, also has good prospects. It will be a government of alliances, but which alliances they are will determine how the next crises, which we will surely have to deal with together, will be managed. Uncertain times lie ahead and the question now is whether, as it seems, we will really miss Merkel.