German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that she will run for a fourth term in office in next year’s general elections.
Merkel says she is contesting for office again in order “to serve Germany…in these difficult and uncertain times.”
Support for the 62-year-old Christian Democrat – who has been in power since 2005 – has waned over the past year. Many have fiercely criticised her handling of the refugee crisis and the rise of a right-wing populist movement.
A dominant figure in European politics with no clear rival for the chancellorship, Merkel is seen as a strong contender. If that happens, it would make her one of the longest-serving chancellors in German history.
Merkel expects tough contest in 2017
In a scheduled press conference widely expected to address the speculation surrounding her political future, She said the upcoming general election would be “more difficult than any before.”
German society was facing strong polarization and the political centre was facing “challenges from all sides,” she said.
Merkel further said she was honoured by high expectations of what she could achieve in a possible fourth term.
But the CDU’s grand coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), has yet to put forward a candidate for the chancellorship.
Opposition confident of beating Merkel
Head of the SPD’s parliamentary group Thomas Oppermann told dpa earlier, after she had revealed her decision to her own party: “The parliamentary election is up for grabs. Angela Merkel is no longer invincible.”
Fifty-five per cent of Germans said they want to see a continuation of Merkel’s time as head of government. Then 39 per cent wanted a new leader, according to an Emnid poll commissioned by the Bild tabloid on Sunday.
Brexit, Trump, other factors
Merkel’s candidacy comes against the backdrop of political turbulence across Europe. The wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, is seen as one. Also, the growing populist movements siphon off support from the political centre ground.
Trump’s victory in the US election and the imminent departure of Merkel’s close ally, Barack Obama, also reheated speculation on the future of the German leader.
CDU co-founder Konrad Adenauer held the position for 14 years. Then, Merkel’s one-time mentor, Helmut Kohl, held the record at 16 years in power.
The German constitution does not limit the number of terms that a chancellor can serve.