November 07, 2019

Merkel’s Fading Power Laid Bare as German Ministers Go Rogue
(Bloomberg) -- For the second time in as many weeks, one of Angela Merkel’s chief cabinet members has gone rogue.Finance Minister Olaf Scholz’s bid to break years of deadlock over European efforts to complete a banking union was announced with fanfare Wednesday.But he hadn’t cleared it with the chancellor, his boss.“This contribution to a discussion has yet to be discussed within the government,” Merkel’s chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters.The free-for-all in a once-disciplined government has left Germans wondering who is really in charge as Merkel approaches her 15th year in office.The chancellor’s authority was similarly tested two weeks ago, when her defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, set out a peace plan for northern Syria. While Merkel was given a heads up on that occasion, the chancellery was caught out all the same when Kramp-Karrenbauer unleashed the proposal without squaring it with their coalition partners. The idea was pilloried by the Social Democrats as unworkable and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas complained he’d found out about the plan by text message.The Next ChancellorWhat connects both episodes is the looming question of who will follow Merkel as chancellor when her term ends in 2021 at the latest. Both AKK, as the defense chief is known, and Scholz may be in the running even as they uphold responsibilities in the creaking coalition.It’s a dangerous game though. Both Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the SPD have suffered in the polls as the coalition limps forward. They could face serious punishment if the political maneuvers were to trigger an election.So on the same day that Scholz made his move on banking union, he also joined Merkel at the Chancellery in Berlin to stage a show of unity as the cabinet vaunted its policy achievements since coming together last year.“This shows that we’re capable and willing to work,” the chancellor said.Rift With MerkelHer party is unhappy all the same. AKK, who was Merkel’s chosen successor as CDU leader, is already facing an open revolt over her lackluster performance and her bond with the chancellor has broken down.Merkel left her one-time protegee to face the music after the CDU’s embarrassing defeat in the eastern state of Thuringia last week. When CDU lawmakers protested Merkel’s plans to cut a deal with the SPD over pensions at a closed-door meeting Tuesday, AKK kept silent leaving the chancellor to defend her decision alone, according to a party official who was present.AKK took another swipe at her boss on Thursday, complaining that German foreign policy has in the past been too preachy without delivering concrete results."We Germans are often very good at setting out high moral standards for ourselves and for others, rather than suggesting concrete measures and following through with them," she said during a speech in Munich.She also called for Germany to establish a presence in the Pacific to push back against China and more leeway from the Bundestag to send troops abroad, suggestions that are likely to stir up more trouble with the SPD.On Merkel’s other flank, Scholz is trying to win a contest for the leadership of the SPD. His rivals have signaled they could pull out of the coalition triggering a snap election and bringing down the curtain on Merkel’s political career.No One in ChargeThe mood in Berlin though is one of drift rather than revolution. While Merkel’s power has waned, neither of the contenders have succeeded in stamping their authority on the administration.AKK’s Syria proposal, a mission to secure a swath of land to protect Kurds along Turkey’s border, was dispatched within days of its unveiling as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey carved the area between them as U.S. forces pulled out.Scholz’s plan to complete the banking union, while stirring promise within the 19-member euro area, had a cold reception in Merkel’s Bundestag caucus. CDU lawmaker Olav Gutting, who sits on the Bundestag finance committee, insisted Merkel’s party will stand by the conditions for a deposit insurance set out by Scholz’s predecessor, Wolfgang Schaeuble.“Risks must first be reduced and controlled on a sustainable basis,” Gutting said in an email to Bloomberg News. “Then you can have a European deposit insurance.”(Updates with AKK quotes in 14th paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net;Arne Delfs in Berlin at adelfs@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Caroline AlexanderFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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