Calls are building in Germany to impose a term limit on how long its chancellors can remain in office amid dismay at Angela Merkel’s handing of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mrs Merkel plans to step down following September’s election after almost 16 years in power. But a growing number of critics say the veteran chancellor has been too long in the job.
Germany has slipped far behind the UK and US in the race to vaccinate its citizens and Mrs Merkel’s critics say she has failed to provide the necessary leadership in the crisis.
Carsten Linnemann, the head of her Christian Democrat party (CDU)’s influential business wing is among those calling for a US-style two-term for future chancellors.
“We have a vision vacuum in Germany, Mr Linnemann told Spiegel magazine. “Germany is still one of the world’s leading countries, and that is partly thanks to Mrs Merkel. But we have become lazy. We were doing well, the economy was going well. We settled in the comfort zone.”
The call was echoed by Wolfgang Merkel, a leading German political scientist — and no relation to the chancellor.
“Mrs Merkel has been in power for 16 years. Her creative energies seem exhausted to us. Your authority over regional leaders has evaporated,” Prof Merkel told RND television.
“It’s a structural flaw that our constitution allows one person to govern for so long. Konrad Adenauer led a paralysed government after 1961 and did not want to resign. It was similar with Helmut Kohl, who also ruled for 16 years. There was a kind of mildew on the land. History is repeating itself.”
Mrs Merkel was widely praised for her initial handling of the crisis last year, and saw her approval ratings return to their old highs.
But she has seemed dazed and powerless in the face of Germany’s vaccination shambles.
She had to stage a walk-out to get her way over a hard Easter lockdown at talks with regional leaders this week — only to make a dramatic U-turn and cancel the plans the next day.