Angela Merkel has triumphed again, winning her third term as chancellor in Germany’s national election on Sunday, September 22. She is widely being celebrated as the most influential and most popular political figure in Europe. Not only is she the de facto head of the 27-member European Union, but also a top power at the G8, G20, IMF, World Bank, and the United Nations. Forbes has listed her as #1 on itslist of the Most Powerful Women in the World for seven of the past 10 years. On its 2013 list of the Most Powerful People in the World, Forbes rates her as #2, behind only President Barack Obama — and ahead of Vladimir Putin, who came in at #3. Cameron Abadi at The New Republic writes:
Germany has more power today than at any time since World War II. Merkel is prima inter pares in the European Union, capable of determining the shape of the bailout packages given to the continent’s ailing economies and, thus, capable of determining the shape of their national economies for years on end. Even the ostensibly independent European Central Bank seems to take its directions from the chancellory in Berlin, afraid to get too far ahead of Merkel’s plans.
According to an IFOP poll, in neighboring France, French voters are also enamored of Merkel, with 56 percent saying they would vote for her if they were German. By contrast, according to the same poll, French President Francois Hollande’s approval rating is at an all-time low of 23 percent, only one point above the lowest ever score for a French president: Francois Mitterand’s 22 percent approval rating in 1991.
Angela Merkel’s double-speaking and flip-flopping on EU bailouts, EU control from Brussels, support for U.S.-backed foreign wars, Germany’s disastrous energy policies — and much more — should have insured her defeat, but the German chancellor’s powerful allies in the media, banking, and politics have shielded her with a Teflon coat.
The New Republic’s Abadi remarks:
Over the course of the euro crisis, Merkel has spoken out against any intervention by the European Central Bank, a permanent bailout mechanism, centralized economic governance for the EU, and a banking union. In each instance, she eventually reversed course, without any evident hand-wringing — and without personally suffering any evident penalty.
The "Merkelvellian" Chameleon
But why did Merkel not personally suffer any political penalty? Abadi and other commentators credit her seemingly miraculous staying power and popularity to her “low-key style” and her “Machiavellian genius” for working quietly behind the scenes and manipulating others to do her dirty work. This trait of quiet cunning and backroom dealing — referred to as “Merkelvellianism” by some political commentators and pundits — undoubtedly explains some of Merkel’s political longevity. However, John Fund at National Review gets a little closer to the heart of the matter in his election post mortem. Fund states:
She benefited from the tacit agreement of all the major establishment players in German politics (the media, the major political parties, and big businesses and the banks) that the euro crisis shouldn’t be a major campaign issue. That saved her from having to directly confront the eurozone crisis during the campaign.
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Photo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel: AP Images