German Chancellor Angela Merkel was expected to announce her bid for re-election Sunday in a move likely to be welcomed in many capitals as a sign of stability following shock poll triumphs for Brexit and Donald Trump.
After months of feverish speculation about her plans, Merkel is due to hold a news conference at 1800 GMT during a meeting of her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and say she will seek a fourth term in the 2017 elections.
Merkel, 62, has governed Europe’s top economic power, which does not have term limits, since 2005.
Another full four-year term, which pollsters say is likely, would tie the post-war record set by her mentor Helmut Kohl, who presided over the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.
The head of the German Council on Foreign Relations, Daniela Schwarzer, said Merkel’s sense of duty had likely shaped her decision.
“Observing the potential repercussions of Trump’s election victory on Europe, I think that the task is even bigger now than it was before the American election and so I would think that she might feel that the job isn’t quite done,” she told AFP.
“There’s a need to continue leading Europe.”
BACK INTO HER ARMS
Merkel, a pastor’s daughter who grew up in communist East Germany, is popular among Germans, who see her as a straight-shooter and a safe pair of hands in tumultuous times.
But her decision to let in more than one million asylum seekers over the last two years has dented her support.
It also revived the fortunes of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany party (AfD), which has harnessed widespread anxiety about migration.
However observers said the recent seismic shifts in global politics could drive traditionally risk-adverse German voters back into her arms.
“The society’s need for predictability and stability could become so overpowering in the 2017 election year that even the creeping erosion of Merkel’s chancellorship won’t compromise her success at the polls in the end,” news weekly Die Zeit said.
As US President Barack Obama exits the stage, many observers say Merkel’s importance as a defender of Western values will only continue to grow, with some calling her the new “leader of the free world”.
While the globe braces for potentially radical changes in US leadership under Trump, Britain is wrestling with the fallout from its June vote backing withdrawal from the EU and France is facing polls in May that could see far-right candidate Marine Le Pen snatch victory.
In a further sign of her relative strength, Merkel gathered Obama and the leaders of Britain, France, Spain and Italy at her chancellery Friday for talks on the fight against terrorism, climate change and the strategic threat posed by Russia.
Merkel has long refused to be drawn on her plans for the general election, expected in September or October 2017, saying only that she would make the announcement “at the appropriate time”.
She repeated the line with a smile at a bittersweet farewell news conference in Berlin Thursday with Obama, who praised her as an “outstanding partner” and urged Germans to “appreciate” her.
“It’s up to her whether she wants to stand again… but if I were here and I were German and I had a vote, I might support her,” he said.
Misgivings about Merkel’s refugee policy were blamed for a string of state election defeats for the CDU over the last 18 months, and sparked an open revolt by its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, which demanded a strict upper limit on incoming asylum-seekers.
A poll released Friday showed that Merkel’s conservatives would draw 32 percent of the vote if the election were held this weekend, down 10 points from the last national election in 2013.
The Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in Merkel’s right-left ruling coalition, were a distant second with 23 percent, followed by the opposition Greens with 13 percent.
The AfD scored 12 percent, according to independent opinion research institute Infratest dimap.
It is still unclear who will carry the SPD’s banner into the race, with party leader Sigmar Gabriel potentially facing a challenge from European Parliament President Martin Schulz.