Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

Opinion

The German election is boring - and that's fine

  • Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany has only had eight chancellors since the end of the World War II. (Photo: Reuters)

Finally an election in Europe that isn't racking our nerves.

After the unexpected calamity of Brexit and the second-place finish of Marine Le Pen in France, Germany's boring election is a welcome reprieve.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Polls point to a comfortable victory for chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) - and why shouldn't they?

The economy is growing, unemployment is low, the federal budget is in surplus and the refugee crisis has disappeared from the front pages.

Between the unpredictable president Donald Trump in the US and an all-too-predictable Vladimir Putin in Russia, Europe looks to Berlin for reassurance.

But German elections seldom inspire. Merkel won last time, in 2013, on a promise of "No Experiments" - the same slogan used by Konrad Adenauer, the founder of her party, in 1957.

The most shocking thing voters have seen this year is a poster of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party that shows a smiling white pregnant woman with the text: "New Germans we make ourselves." The party is unlikely to win more than 10 percent support.

Very dull

Volumes have been written about the "secret" to Merkel's success.

She has positioned the Christian Democrats firmly in the centre of German politics, taking the wind out of her competitors' sails.

She is careful not to get too far ahead of public opinion, but moves fast when events demand it - her about-turn on nuclear energy after the 2011 Fukushima power plant disaster in Japan being the most-cited example.

Supporters argue she is sensitive to the wishes of her electorate. Detractors see a chancellor without a North Star.

There is truth in all of this, but Germany's desire for a safe pair of hands predates Merkel.

The country has only had eight chancellors since the end of the Second World War. The US has been through 13 presidents during the same period, Britain had 14 prime ministers and Italy 28.

Germans have learned the hard way to mistrust charisma and not elevate politics to a matter of national survival - nor dismiss it as sport.

Better to let it be a dull affair for serious men and women in grey suits.

Try the German way

Other nations don't need to go through the same experience as Germany to appreciate politics the way it does.

You don't need to have been misruled by a failed artist to understand that a wonkish woman in a pantsuit will make for a better leader than a reality TV star.

Nor must you have suffered at the hands of the most rambunctious man in the history to learn that loudness is not a substitute for competence.

The fact that Germany is prosperous and well-run is all the proof we need that politics is better served bland.

It's a shame for us in the news business - so expect laments in the next few weeks about how "nothing is happening" in the German election - but the German people are better off for it.

Nick Ottens is the owner of the transatlantic opinion website Atlantic Sentinel.

Schulz mauls Merkel as German vote nears

Merkel has “lost touch” with ordinary people, does not know how to handle Dieselgate, and is too soft on Turkey, her main election rival has said.

Investigation

The rise of the German alt-right

Ahead of Sunday's German elections, a growing number of anti-establishment, anti-Islam websites have created an echo chamber for the radical right.

News in Brief

  1. Stimulus still needed, ECB's Draghi says in final report
  2. May's Brexit deal defeated by 230 votes
  3. German economy hit by global economic turbulence
  4. MEPs narrowly call for end to 'tampon tax'
  5. MEPs back spending €6bn on fusion energy research
  6. MEPs call for 'awareness campaign' on autonomous car benefits
  7. German glyphosate report 'copy-pasted' from industry
  8. Commission set to reveal controversial common tax plan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  2. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  3. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025
  4. MEPs redouble appeal on sexual harassment
  5. Trump's wall vs Europe's sea
  6. Centre-right MEPs want transparency vote to be secret
  7. Germany scorns 'unusual' US threat on Russia pipeline
  8. UK parliament vote expected to prompt Brexit delay

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us