Thomas Schmoll said the “Merkel system” is dead and the CDU, after relying on her popularity for electoral success for many years, is empty in terms of personnel and content and will count the cost at the polls in September when she steps down. And the author warned the party could get its “comeuppance” if it fails to hold on to the power it has enjoyed since Ms Merkel’s first election victory in 2005.
He said the Chancellor’s popularity reached a high point in 2013 and then survived despite a hugely unpopular open door policy during the migrant crisis of 2015 and 2016 but has come under increasing pressure throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Schmoll said: “The CDU and CSU celebrated a sensational result in the federal election in September 2013.
“Some 41.5 percent of the citizens voted for the Union parties – albeit more as a formality.
“Because Angela Merkel, who led Germany through the European sovereign debt crisis, clearly won the victory.”
He continued: “The amazing thing about her triumph was that she was successful at the time with a largely empty campaign.
“Merkel’s strategy can still be explained with a single sentence: ‘You know me’.
“She understood that it is not about programmes, concepts and slogans. Trust and credibility are crucial.”
Mr Schmoll said the CDU/CSU took 32.9 percent of the vote in 2017 as Ms Merkel continued to be trusted even after the migrant crisis which saw more than a million refugees enter Germany.
But he said the coronavirus pandemic has found the German leader wanting in the eyes of German voters.
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Mr Schmoll said: “What some criticised as a lack of clear political convictions or even visions, others praised as clever pragmatism and skillful action.
“The awakening during the Corona crisis is all the more harsh: the realisation that Merkel is very much lacking in orientation towards what is necessary and in leadership skills.
“The fact that Merkel’s approval ratings initially rose rapidly in the pandemic had in turn to do with the sentence: ‘You know me’.
“The people between Rügen and the Black Forest still trusted her. They had every reason to. In fact, the Chancellor was once again in top form – but again only as a crisis manager, less as a head of government.
“As if the republic would be fit for the future after Corona. The pandemic has only relentlessly exposed the deficits.
“The fact that the CDU begins to position itself programmatically six months before the election, even though the failed chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has been talking about it all the time, could even cost the party the chancellery.
“It would be the comeuppance for the endurance of the Merkel system, which has had its day.”
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)