Merkel's Next Challenge

How She Will Fare Ahead of Germany's Elections

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump in Hamburg, Germany, July 2017.   John MacDougall / Pool / REUTERS

After a G-20 with plenty of drama but little substance, German Chancellor Angela Merkel must now face the ultimate test. She must exit the international stage and start speaking to German voters in a quest to be reelected for a fourth term. Although the G-20 was not the best showcase for the chancellor thanks to protests on the streets of Hamburg, her Christian Democrat party (CDU) has surged ahead in the polls over the last couple of months, giving Merkel a considerable lead of approximately 15 percentage points over Social Democrat party (SPD) challenger Martin Schulz. To maintain momentum, Merkel should address skepticism within her own party about domestic security and the creditworthiness of Germany’s EU partners while continuing to position herself to German voters as a bulwark against Trump.

During her 12 years in office, Merkel has deftly adopted issues from other parties to diminish their voter base. By speeding up the timeline for phasing out nuclear energy and clearing the way for gay marriage, for example, she has robbed the Greens of their main appeal to progressive voters. Meanwhile, when she gets rival parties to enter her coalition government, they do so at their own peril. The Liberal Free Democrats (FDP) joined with Merkel in 2009 to form a traditional center-right government. In the next parliamentary elections in 2013, the FDP couldn’t even muster the five percent vote threshold to enter the parliament, something that had never happened in post-war Germany. Likewise, after two stints as the CDU’s coalition partner, the SPD is beginning to hemorrhage support on both sides of the political spectrum.

All this bodes well for Merkel, whose CDU is leading after losing ground to the SPD at the beginning of the year, when the two parties were neck and neck with approximately a third of the vote each. As of the beginning of July, the German institute Infratest Dimap calculated 39 percent support for the CDU and 23 percent for the SPD. Indeed, with the wind in her

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