Picture of the Week: The unflappable and veteran Chancellor of Germany leaves the political scene with a rare display of vulnerability
On Sunday, the Germans will elect a chancellor to replace Angela Merkel, the woman who has guided them through 16 years of crisis. From the largest mass migration of asylum seekers since World War II to the election of Donald Trump, between the 2008 financial collapse and a global pandemic, Merkel has remained admirably pragmatic. He rarely showed emotion, even when he was infamously face-to-face with a young Palestinian refugee, whose family was nearly deported: Merkel made the girl cry when he said, equally courteously and frankly, that not all refugees could stay. Merkel was criticized at the time for her outspokenness, but her country welcomed more immigrants than any other European country. Despite a shaky first year marked by sporadic terrorist attacks, and significant unemployment among newcomers that continues to this day, Germany’s acceptance of one million migrants is largely viewed have a success. This dichotomy speaks to the heart of the Merkel brand. Its center-right bloc, the Christian Democratic Union, has specialized in a kind of reflective conservatism that in various ways has brought progress to the country and held it back. Critics point out that Germany has remained stagnant on major issues like climate change and economic dependence on China, and Merkel’s diplomatic ability to keep the European Union afloat may have only been temporary, as the authoritarian rise of governments in Poland and Hungary echoes those of Turkey and Russia, who exercise their muscles. One thing is certain: As emotions and political polarization run rampant in the 21st century, Germany benefited from a staunch, stoic leader. Now finally on a farewell tour of his home state, he can relax. Even if it takes a flock of parrots to grow it.