The German government presents at the end of March 2021 a very sad picture as regards its management of the pandemic. And there is a thought, barely conceivable a few weeks ago, that is difficult to dislodge: will Chancellor Angela Merkel once again manage to give a meaningful structure to the fight against the coronavirus? Or will she give up? Or even have to resign?
It is not likely to go that far. Who would want to take over in the midst of the most difficult political crisis in decades? But the decline of the authority of this internationally respected leader in her own country is breathtaking.
Jens Thurau from DW
Earlier this week, at his strong request, the state premiers’ roundtable agreed to a four-week extension of the lockdown, including a stricter Easter halt as a sort of forced rest period. But hardly anyone saw the point of a five-day break like this, especially since most Germans didn’t seem to feel like partying or traveling anyway.
However, Merkel succeeded. She apparently pointed a gun at the heads of the leaders, some of whom wanted to allow light forms of Paschal tourism, and reportedly signaled that if they did not agree to her plan, she would abandon the entire deal.
The threat worked for a few hours. But there were angry protests from the business, church and opposition sectors. Even Merkel’s own Home Secretary Horst Seehofer (CSU) openly opposed the Easter holidays. It comes as Merkel’s CDU popularity ratings have plunged in recent polls, a slump that probably has in part to do with the recent unsavory mask-buying scandal in which various politicians from her party are involved.
And now for a U-turn: there won’t be a strict Easter shutdown after all. Merkel said she made a mistake. She admitted that more harm than good would be done and that there were too many questions that could not be adequately answered. She even asked everyone living in Germany to forgive her.
This was a noble step – it is rare for heads of government to publicly apologize and acknowledge shortcomings. But it was an admission of failure, and some opposition parties called on the Chancellor to ask for a vote of confidence.
Everyone in power, government and federal states, got desperately lost in the details. The consequence is that people no longer understand what the rules are. First, there was a blanket travel ban for almost everyone at Easter, but within hours some states had moved away from it. The fact that information from the Chancellor’s discussion with state prime ministers leaked almost to the minute is also a sign that respect for Merkel is waning.
Since the start of the pandemic, Merkel seems to be more aware than many others of the challenge she poses. But a year later, his answer remains only that there must be more restrictions. An attempt to open in conjunction with rapid tests failed due to a shortage of such tests. And the vaccination campaign continues to drag on. Germany has lost its direction in the fight against the virus.
This is tragic for a woman whose seriousness, willingness to compromise and strong nerves have earned her respect around the world. But his much appreciated willingness to hear all sides of a debate and involve all participants is his fall into this third wave of the pandemic.
Of course, that’s not really Merkel’s fault. German federalism prevents the chancellors from governing with an iron fist. But at present, this government is incapable of acting in a coherent manner. And the number of infections keeps increasing. Things can only really get better from here.
This article has been translated from German.