William Cook

The Merkel supremacy

Angela Merkel’s CDU is almost certain to win; what really matters is who her coalition partners will be

 Berlin

Under the PR system we gave them, it’s inevitable that Merkel will have to govern in some sort of coalition

‘Capitalism is armed robbery,’ reads the graffiti on the subway wall, but here in Berlin, German capitalists are doing what capitalism does best — creating new jobs and new industries. Berlin used to be regarded as ‘poor but sexy’(as Berlin’s former mayor Klaus Wowereit put it), but last year the German capital boasted the highest growth in the country — 2.7 per cent, 0.7 per cent above the national average. A city of squats and bombsites has become a city of high-tech start-ups, and now tech giants such as Google and Microsoft are moving in. Cheap rents and a lively nightlife attract smart millennials from across the globe. Unemployment is at its lowest since the Wall came down. Berlin’s Wirtschaftswunder is a microcosm of the booming German economy, and the main reason why — barring a catastrophic mishap — Angela Merkel will be returned as chancellor in two weeks’ time. National unemployment is also at its lowest since reunification, and growth is running at 0.6 per cent per quarter — double the rate in the UK. For the third year running, the German government has posted a budget surplus (last year’s was €24 billion, the largest since reunification). No wonder Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union is nudging 40 per cent in the polls, while Martin Schulz’s Social Democrats languish at around 25 per cent. So how did Merkel transform an election that only last year she looked bound to lose, turning a dead loss into a dead rubber? It’s the economy, dummkopf. It’s also a testament to her talent for sitting tight and saying nothing (if Merkel had a mantra, it would be ‘don’t do something — just stand there’). Following her calamitous decision to let a million migrants into Germany two years ago — one of the few times she’s done something decisive, with disastrous consequences — even some of her closest supporters urged her to step down.

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