Sputnik interviewed Christian Schweiger, a visiting professor and chair in comparative European governance systems at the Chemnitz University of Technology about Merkel's future prospects amid waning support for her party.
Sputnik: The popularity rating of the Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) has plummeted to below 30 percent. In your opinion, how does this reflect current public sentiment regarding the political situation in Germany overall?
Christian Schweiger: This is predominantly the result of a substantial swing of young voters (18-24) from the the CDU/CSU towards the Green Party. We already witnessed this trend in last year's regional elections in Bavaria and Hesse, and it has been strengthened further by the unequivocal support of the Greens for the Friday climate protest, which were partially criticised by CDU/CSU representatives, most of all by the new CDU leader Kramp-Karrenbauer. Another factor in the slump of the CDU's poll ratings is Merkel's recent passivity in addressing key public concerns such as sharply rising rents for private tenants, a lack of teachers and doctors, and again, environmental concerns.
Even on the future of the EU, Merkel has continued to be relatively passive during her fourth term, which many consider as dishonest, as she had asked for another mandate to ensure the future stability of the EU. In addition, Kramp-Karrenbauer has alienated more liberal CDU supporters with the comments she made during the "third" gender debate and on same sex marriages. The slight increase in support for grand coalition partner SPD shows that the SPD has started to move into the policy void left by Merkel by offering its own policy proposals.
Sputnik: The slump comes after Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was elected CDU chief in December, as before then, the party had an approval rating of 36 per cent. What can you say about AKK and what are the chances that she can become the next chancellor?
Christian Schweiger: AKK started as CDU leader with a big boost in her personal ratings last year, and many expected her to move into the position of chancellor sooner or later. In recent weeks, her personal poll ratings have slumped as a result of her rather reactionary attitude towards same- sex marriages and gender issues. Moreover, it is obvious that AKK is at odds with Merkel on these issues, most of all on migration. On the one hand, this could help her to gain support amongst the traditional wing of the party, but it has become obvious that the SPD is not willing to support a switch from Merkel to AKK. If she will be able to gain enough public support at the next general election in Germany to form a coalition with the Greens and FDP remains to be seen. For now, Merkel is relatively safe in her seat as the CDU is unlikely to risk the break-up of the grand coalition with the SPD and an early election by deposing Merkel.
Sputnik: Earlier Jean-Claude Juncker said that Angela Merkel is "highly qualified" for a top European Union job. This comments fueled speculation that Angela Merkel may enter EU politics after her time as Chancellor is up. How likely is that?
Christian Schweiger: In my view, Juncker's comments illustrate how remote he is from the political reality in the EU. His praise for Merkel is not uniformly shared in the EU, particularly as Merkel has failed to use the opportunity of Macron's proposals to develop a coherent future agenda for the EU after Brexit. I do not know if Merkel herself is interested in taking up an EU-level position after her current period in office as chancellor ends. She would certainly gain some support but given her lack of engagement on leading the EU towards a clear vision, I do not think that Merkel would be a good choice e.g. as Council president. She has done too much damage towards the internal cohesion of the EU with her rigid attitude during the eurozone and migration crisis. Particularly the countries in Central-Eastern Europe are therefore unlikely to support her, and she would ultimately be a gift to the anti-European populists son the far right and far left. Who they would argue that Merkel is once again calling the shots, if she moved into a senior senior-level position within the EU.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.