Angela Merkel leaving as Germany’s chancellor is like “losing the most powerful woman in the world as of the elections on Sunday,” according to Sara Grove, a political science professor at Shippensburg University. This was just one of the points of the “Post-Merkel Germany: Thoughts on German Politics, History, and Culture During the German Election” discussion that took place on Sept. 29, at Orndoff Theatre in the Ceddia Union Building.
Grove moderated the discussion, which was led by David Wildermuth, an associate professor of German at Shippensburg University and Mark Sachleben, an SU political science professor. Wildermuth, given his extended period living in Germany recently, had unique input throughout the entire discussion.
The discussion sought to analyze the political changes Germany faces and will face following Merkel’s departure as Chancellor of Germany. Merkel’s withdrawal has caused political upset after nearly 16 years in the position, according to britannica.com.
“Angela Merkel, no one thinks she’s a visionary,” said Wildermuth. “However, they think she’s a good manager. People are now nostalgic for her service.”
“She held that role through the entire Obama administration, she held that role through the Trump administration, and now she is resigning during the presidency of Joe Biden,” Grove said. “She’s still a chancellor in this period of time.”
Wildermuth explained, “For me, there’s a really easy way to understand how long that’s been. My son was born in August of 2005 and in November she became chancellor. So, my son is now a high school junior. That is how long she has been in power.”
Merkel’s departure has left a power vacuum that every political party in Germany is vying to fill, according to CNBC.com. While countries around Germany have been changing at a rapid rate, Germany has remained relatively stable, mostly thanks to Merkel, according to Wildermuth. Grove offered some perspective: “She has really been a stable leader in Europe for a long period of time as we witness transitions in the United Kingdom, and we talk about Brexit and Great Britain. Also, the changes that have taken place in France as well as other countries in Europe.”
The political battle in Germany is complex, but one party has been making waves due to its base of fierce college-age voters. Germany’s Grün, or Green, party is focused on addressing climate change. Older voters have been sticking to the party they’ve been voting for in each previous election, the Cristian Democratic Union (CDU) in most cases. However, first time voters are finding their allegiance with the Green Party more and more.
In Germany, climate is taken very seriously, but older voters are more in favor of political stability than voting for climate change regulations, according to Sachleben. And, according to Sachleben, “38 percent of [German] voters are over 60.”
However, the Green Party is flourishing in urban areas and among young voters. The Green Party seeks to have majority control of German parliament and instate an office to deal with the climate crisis, according to Wildermuth as well as the Washington Post.
Merkel appears to have left at a critical time, as this year many voters are more focused on climate change than ever before. This puts the Green Party in a unique position they have not had before, according to the Washington Post. Sachleben and Wildermuth also agreed on this viewpoint.
It is going to take time to see what shape Germany’s political landscape will take. In the meantime, SU professors are tirelessly analyzing and discussing the evolving situation.