Angela Merkel is back in charge of Europe. On Sunday, 68 per cent of the members of the Social Democrats (SPD) voted for another Grand Coalition with Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union CDU (and Christian Social Union in Bavaria). The turnout was 78 per cent.
After almost 13 years in power, all indications are that Merkel is entering her final phase of her remarkable and unusual career. In two years, she will overtake her protégé Helmut Kohl’s record as the longest serving Chancellor of postwar Germany. Only Otto von Bismarck in the 19th century will have served longer than Merkel.
It is natural, at this stage, to take stock, and to assess what Merkel accomplished. Some have remarked that hers was a quiet power, that she changed the style of politics in the German Federal Republic.
Before Merkel became Chancellor in 2005, no woman had held high political office. Her own Christian Democrat Party was dominated by socially conservative, southern, Catholic lawyers. The party’s view was that women should concentrate on was Kinder, Küche, Kirche – Children, Kitchen and Church.
This changed with Merkel. A divorcee daughter of a Lutheran Pastor, and a woman with a doctorate in quantum chemistry, she did not conform to the standard of female Christian Democrat politicians.
Merkel will probably be remembered for her role in resolving the euro debt crisis and for opening the borders to close to one million refugees. But her main legacy is in social policies.
Her first legislative achievement as a minister in the 1990s was to introduce a more liberal abortion law. It…