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3 May, 2020 21:28

German Interior Minister Seehofer mulls FIFTH term for Chancellor Merkel as Covid-19 crisis boosts her popularity

German Interior Minister Seehofer mulls FIFTH term for Chancellor Merkel as Covid-19 crisis boosts her popularity

The Covid-19 crisis has surprisingly turned out to be a boon for German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she regained public support. Now, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer believes a fifth term in office might not be ruled out.

Successful handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic which has allowed Germany to start the process of gradually easing quarantine rules which have been crippling its economy for quite some time has apparently boosted Merkel’s image among her fellow party members and political allies.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who has had quite a thorny relationship with the chancellor over the last couple of years, has now floated the idea of her staying at the helm for another term. The man, who once said he “cannot work with this woman” anymore and refused to shake hands with her amid the coronavirus scare just a couple of months ago, has now given generous praise to her “strong” leadership during the epidemic.

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The minister lauded “excellent teamwork” within the cabinet and cooperation of the federal and regional authorities, attributing all this to Merkel’s “strategic leadership.”

“We can be glad that we have such a chancellor leading our country in this situation,” he told Bild am Sonntag. Merkel’s success has apparently prompted her fellow party members and allies to consider the idea of actually suggesting her for the position of chancellor for a fifth time.

“I cannot deny that I have been hearing the idea more often recently,” Seehofer, who is a member of Merkel’s Bavarian allies – the Christian Social Union, said about such plans.

The general public has apparently developed a more favorable opinion of the chancellor as well. Latest public survey results have been quite positive toward Merkel’s Christian Democrats. Public backing of the chancellor’s party stood between 38 and 39 percent over the last couple of months, indicating that it could form a majority coalition with its partner of choice – the Social Democrats – or the Greens for that matter.

In early 2020, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) could have only dreamt of something like that. At that time, the party which was going through a leadership crisis, enjoyed the support of just 27 percent of Germans.

Things have apparently changed now – all thanks to Berlin’s handling of the novel coronavirus crisis, which the nation withered better than its neighbors. Germany remains one of the nations that has been severely hit by the pandemic, with more than 165,000 of its citizens having been infected. Yet, the number of confirmed cases – and the Covid-19 death toll – in Germany is still lower than in France, Italy or Spain.

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The Christian Democrats have been struggling to find a new leader ever since Merkel’s would-be successor Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer abruptly announced her resignation as the party chair earlier this year.

The German laws technically do not prevent Merkel from taking the post of chancellor for a fifth time since they do not set a limit for the number of terms one person can hold. Still, she has already been in office for about 15 years – more than modern Germany's second-longest ruling chancellor, Konrad Adenauer – and almost as long as Helmut Kohl, whom Merkel is going to catch up with by the end of her current term.

Now, she has the chance of becoming the longest-ruling chancellor in German history, beating even Otto von Bismarck, the man behind the unification of Germany in the 19th century, who spent a total of 18 years in office. That is, of course, if Germans decide to stick with ‘Mutti’ for another four years.

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