Merkel-Dämmerung

seehofer_merkel

Horst Seehofer and Angela Merkel


🔗 2016-08-29

Henryk M. Broder in Die Welt

Translation: Edward Shilling/The Europeans

The Putsch Against Merkel Approaches On Soft Soles


The Chancellor is facing a headwind from Eastern Europe. And in the CSU, they’re thinking: we’ll let Angela Merkel carry on until she drops, and her polling numbers go through the floor. She’ll topple over by herself.

Yet again, another genuine Merkel-week. On an island off Naples, she met Italian minister-president Renzi and French president Hollande. After the European mini-summit, the three cast-members held a press conference on an aircraft carrier with the telling name, Garibaldi. Then the chancellor flew to Tallinn, where she was warmly received by the Estonian minister-president, Taavi Roivas.

Merkel praised Estonia as “one of the most innovatory countries” of the European Union, one which had “recognized very early the opportunities offered by computerization”. As she explained, we had to “work hard to cope with” the British people’s Brexit-decision. That was why a “process of reflexion” and a “period of re-evaluation” had begun in the remaining twenty-seven EU states. This was normal in any “family”.

In Prague, the next stop on her tour, President Milos Zeman had let it be known before the arrival of his guest, what he thought of the Chancellor’s politics: the German Willkommenskultur [culture of welcome] was “nonsense”, and in no way a model for the Czech Republic.

Similarly chilled was the atmosphere afterwards in Warsaw, where it was again made clear to her by the heads of government of the Visegrad Group […], that they were not prepared to bow to pressure from Brussels and accept refugees.

A physical and logistical tour de force

Merkel put on a brave face during this sad performance and said that she was already preparing for the next summit of the EU states on 16th September in Bratislava: “We are very pleased that Bratislava is going to be the host, because part of our work – the European Council holding its meetings almost exclusively in Brussels perhaps has something to do with it – sometimes puts us at a bit of a distance from real life and the feeling that Europe represents, and for that reason particularly, in my view, this is a very good initiative”.

People in Europe, continued Merkel, would “accept Europe only if there were a promise of prosperity, and we make it clear that we have no ambition to be middle-of-the-pack, but to be right up there at the cutting edge”.

Returning to Germany, the Chancellor resumed her marathon consultations. At Schloß Meserberg, the federal government’s prestigious guest-house, she received first the minister-presidents of the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and Denmark, and then afterwards the heads-of-government of Slovenia, Bulgaria and Croatia.

Within six days, she had conducted discussions with important representatives of fourteen EU countries. A physical and logistical tour de force, with what results remained unclear.

This cannot have been the “closeness to life and feeling that Europe represents”, unless one takes a press conference on an aircraft carrier for a sort of a “promise of prosperity” to anyone who can’t afford a Caribbean cruise.

Eyebrows glued up in a meaningful arch

It was a week in which chasing after appearances had won over reality. A pompous staging by land, sea and air, after which the only thing to remain in the memory will be Angela Merkel’s daily change of blazer. Shakespeare would have described the spectacle as much ado about nothing, and Hanns Dieter Hüsch, the philosopher from the Lower Rhine, would say: “Vacuity travels at full tilt”.

Of course, otherwise than in Elmau a year ago, there were also cautiously sceptical nuances. Claus Kleber, definitely not noted for a love of irony, introduced a contribution to [ZDF’s news magazine] Heute-Journal with the words: it wasn’t exactly history; but just as a report, it would do anytime.

Therewith raising an eyebrow meaningfully, as if to apologize for the comment. Perhaps in the near future this minimally invasive gesture will win him a Bambi for moral courage.

The twilight of Angela Merkel, predicted for several months already, seems slowly to be emerging from its period of latency. Not because Horst Seehofer [CSU leader] is taking to Merkel’s throne with a fretsaw, not because Sigmar Gabriel [SPD leader] is suddenly demanding “upper limits to integration” and reproaching the Chancellor for failure over the refugee crisis, without acknowledging his own and his party’s share in the crisis.

Also not because Merkel would demonstrate the least insight into the limits of her supernatural powers. It’s much simpler than that. There is a putsch against Merkel in the works. Even if at first blush it doesn’t look like it.

Whoever wants to stage a putsch today, must control the internet

Many specific interpretations are tied up with the concept of putsch. Wikipedia defines it as, “an often unexpected, usually violent action on the part of members of the military or paramilitary organizations, and/or of a group of politicians, with the goal of bringing down the government and taking over state power”.

The Young Turks came to power by putsch in Istanbul in 1913; Hitler and Ludendorff in 1923 wanted to take over Berlin from Munich; the Greek colonels in 1967 chased the Athens government from office. That was a long time ago.

Also, today’s wars begin less romantically than before. No attack on an archduke, no fake ambush broadcast by a radio station. There are unexplained wars, hybrid wars, and asymmetric wars. And silly debates about them, whether terrorism represents a type of warfare or not.


Only 42 per cent of Germans want Angela Merkel to remain as Chancellor, according to new polling. Since the beginning of the refugee crisis, the Chancellor’s approval rating has fallen markedly.


Whoever wants to stage a putsch today, must first bring the internet under his control. But it’s more subtle than that. The modern putschist doesn’t intervene, he lets things take their course, confident in their self-destructive tendencies.

When it came to the third bail-out package for Greece, as many as 63 Union deputies voted against the government’s proposals. They have since gone quiet. Because they want to regroup? Some perhaps, but that can’t be the full explanation.

We’re not pushing her off the throne

Angela Merkel has created a fait accompli that cannot be rolled back. When she couldn’t be stopped, the country found itself in an emotional state of emergency. Willkommenskultur [culture of welcome] was first of all a civic duty. The solution to all demographic problems stood at the gate, a second Wirtschaftswunder [economic miracle] was rolling in.

In the meantime, disillusionment has set in. As confidently predicted by Horst Seehofer [leader, CSU, Bavaria], who already on the 11th September, 2015, had called the Chancellor’s decision to open the borders a “blunder”, one that “will cost us years of anxiety”. He sees “no possibility that the stopper can be put back in the bottle”.

Why the CSU leader has since only threatened and threatened, instead of establishing his party federally, is one of those riddles that will busy flocks of historians. If it’s not about anxiety over his own courage, then it must be a political calculation: We’ll give her free rein until she runs into the buffers. Until her polling goes through the floor. We won’t depose her, she’ll fall be herself. It’s only a matter of time.

The putsch is coming on soft shoes. It insinuates itself like a cat. Here’s a thought: somewhere a few women and men are sitting cosily together, planning for the day after.