In line with the close transatlantic relationship that Barack Obama and Angela Merkel came to forge, it is said that the president of the United States used to persistently insist that the German leader assume a much more relevant position in international politics. With decades of history not always exemplary behind her, and who knows if perhaps with some irony, Merkel came to answer something like: “The last thing the world needs is another charismatic Chancellor of Germany.”
From Washington to Madrid, the electoral processes of many democracies have long turned into variety shows, with an overdose of banality. Although from this mix of entertainment and voter persuasion, known as
the “spectacularization” of politics, the exemplary exception seems to be Germany. A democracy that since the postwar period has always avoided stridency, more or less until the irruption of the extreme right, which does not seem willing to continue making virtue of the gray.
For this reason, the pulse to elucidate Merkel’s succession, after her record of 16 years in power, would be proving as decisive as it is boring. As much as the dying Social Democrats led by Olaf Scholz have risen to the heels of Armin Laschet’s conservatives. In the absence of a clear favorite, no party in the polls manages to add more than 25% of the intention to vote. And the only candidate who defends an ambitious agenda for change, Annalena Baerbock of the Greens, has done nothing but retreat after a fleeting rebound before the summer.
It seems that squalor has re-imposed itself as the dominant electoral tactic of these hard-fought but tedious elections scheduled for next Sunday, September 26. This obsession with continuity, stability and calm may be an additional tribute to a Merkel that is really difficult to replace. Although with everything at stake, the million dollar question is whether this deficit of charisma is also a deficit of leadership.