Politics

‘Merkel blow by blow’ – How the German chancellor can’t catch a break

The media have been quick to label the departure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ally Volker Kauder as the latest in a series of “blows” to the chancellor. But Merkel shows no signs of being blown away just yet.

A close ally of Merkel for the last 13 years, Kauder was ousted from his parliamentary group chairmanship on Tuesday in a secret vote among members of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union parties.

Any political knocking for Merkel is almost always described in the media as “an unexpected blow,” and Kauder’s departure was no different. After yet another incident, we look back at every time the mainstream media dealt old ‘Mutti’ a blow.

When talks to form a coalition government in Germany collapsed last November, the Washington Post reported it the only way they knew how: as a “blow” to Merkel. The chancellor’s CDU party won the highest percentage of the vote, but was weakened by the rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Germany’s own Deutsche Welle isn’t above giving the country’s chancellor a good blowing. When her Interior Minister Horst Seehofer rebelled against Merkel’s ‘soft-touch’ immigration policy this summer, the paper described it as a “blow”she brought on herself.

Merkel’s controversial decision to let over one million migrants enter Germany at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015 opened the chancellor up to blow after blow in the following years.

Like it did just days before the 2017 election. The publication of an internal German government report criticizing Merkel’s handling of the refugee crisis found that Merkel should have, and didn’t, give parliament enough say on her decision to throw open the country’s borders in 2015. Given the severity of the demographic change that followed, the report’s authors argued that the decision was “of essential relevance to the state,” and should not have been taken by Merkel alone.

How did the media report it? Why it was a “blow” of course!

Poor Angela was blown from all sides in 2017. With migration woes weakening her government at home, the British press reported that the UK’s impending departure from the European Union could cost the German taxpayer £7 billion ($9.2 billion) per year to cover the shortfall in EU funding from Britain. Needless to say, this was reported as another devastating “blow” to the Europhile chancellor.

We’ve established that any kind of election loss will be written up as a blow for Merkel, but this particular “blow” in 2016 was more humiliating than others: it took place on Merkel’s home turf.

Merkel’s ruling CDU party was beaten into third place by the AfD and center-left SPD, its poorest ever result in the former East German state, from where ‘Mutti’ was first elected to the Bundestag in 1990.

The slow blow: When Germany’s ruling Social Democrat-Green coalition decided to phase out nuclear power in 2000, young Angela Merkel probably had no idea she’d be the one feeling the “blow” 16 years later.

The original phase-out plan would see nuclear plants in Germany operate until 2036, but Merkel called for an immediate shutdown in 2011 after the Fukushima disaster in Japan, before returning to the original phase-out plan five months later. Nevertheless, three power companies sued the government for losses incurred during the abrupt 2011 shutdown and won in 2016, dealing Merkel yet another“blow.”

Nothing shocking here, other than the fact that most of the mainstream media were using the same cut-and-paste headline almost a decade ago. In this gem from 2010, a German state governor’s resignation is painted as a “blow” to Merkel, because why buck the trend?

Punch drunk from the constant blows, Merkel finally got her own back last year in a televised debate with election rival Martin Schulz. While German political debates are a much more tepid affair than Trump v Clinton, the media still reportedMerkel’s performance against the Social Democrat as a “death blow,” despite the fact that both politicians agreed more than they disagreed, and avoided personal attacks.

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