After Merkel, the German election heralds a messier politics and a weaker leadership
After 16 years of Angela Merkel as chancellor, Germans strewn their votes across the political spectrum in the election to replace her on Sunday, signalling a more volatile political period in Germany and weakened German leadership in Europe. Official preliminary results showed the center-left Social Democrats a 1.6-point lead, a result so close that no one could predict who would be the next chancellor or what the future government would look like.
The only thing that seemed certain was that forming a coalition would take weeks, if not months of wrangling, leaving Europe's largest democracy in limbo at a crucial time when the continent is still recovering from the pandemic and France — Germany's partner at the heart of Europe — faces divisive elections next spring. The election on Sunday marked the end of an era for Germany and Europe.
Ms. Merkel served as Germany's chancellor and, in effect, Europe's leader for more than a decade. She guided her country and the continent through a series of crises, allowing Germany to reclaim its position as Europe's dominant force for the first time since the two world wars.
The battle lines were established even before the first official results were revealed, as both primary contenders to succeed Ms. Merkel as chancellor declared their claims to the top position — and their desire to fight for it. A lengthy history of submissive, consensus-based politics was gradually fading, giving place to a more voluble tone.