Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel has again experienced a bout of shaking at an official event, this time at a meeting of Prime Minister of Finland Antti Rinne in Berlin on July 10. Although she told journalists after the negotiations: "I am doing fine and you should not worry", Angela Merkel's regular bouts of shaking at public events have drawn close attention all over the world.
Media, mainly outside of Germany, have actively discussed the chancellor's health and come up with various medical suggestions. The Germans themselves, known for their great respect to personal life, have been less reserved on this topic. But the main issue that everyone cares about is whether Merkel will remain in power until the end of her term, which means until the 2021 elections and what will happen if she quits prematurely for health reasons.
Official Berlin assured the public that there was no need to worry, as everything is fine with the chancellor's health and the bouts were caused by temporary reasons: heat and dehydration. However, this doesn't answer the main question, which is how long the incumbent German government will stay in power. Moreover, it has become even more topical over the past several days. And it's not that the explanations of the office of the federal chancellor look unconvincing.
The ruling coalition in Berlin has been in a state of proliferating erosion since last year due to disagreements between the CDU/CSU and the SPD, and this process has been gaining pace over the past several weeks. Back in last March, when the coalition agreement was signed, few believed in Germany that yet another union between conservatives and social democrats would live for the designated period. But now it is said for sure in Berlin that the current government will not survive until Christmas.
After the European Parliament and Bremen parliamentary elections which both were a disaster for the SPD, its leader Andrea Nahles resigned. And this not only raised the issue of a new leader but also gave serious reasons for the party to think about its future. Moreover, its rating fell to 12% in June and he party slid to the fourth place among German parties letting the Alternative for Germany ahead.
Now, social democrats are trying to use tactical elements to demonstrate their political position and regain at least a part of voters' confidence. For example, they harshly opposed nominating Ursula von der Leyen to the post of European Commission president and even had disagreements with their colleagues in the European Parliament faction.
The defense minister is indeed unpopular in Germany, and just 33% of Germans think she is a good candidate for the highest position in the EU. However, such SPD demarches are just fanning up disagreements in the German government and cannot eliminate reasons behind the falling rating of Social Democrats. These reasons are of fundamental nature and to a large extent linked to the many-year ruling coalition with the CDU/CSU. There is nothing good for the SPD in the future as well: judging by opinion polls they will be defeated at the upcoming elections in Brandenburg, Saxony and Thuringia this fall.
New Bundestag elections are bad for the ruling parties, they will definitely get fewer seats than they have now, and it is quite possible that the victory, which means the chancellor's seat, will be won by the Greens that have been competing with the CDU/CSU for the first place in opinion polls for more than a month.
But the SPD unlike the CDU/CSU in fact has nothing more to lose. There are no preconditions for its rating to grow, moreover, it plays a second fiddle in the government of Christian Democrats. There is almost no doubt that new SPD leaders that are to be elected this fall will decide to leave the coalition, as it would mean a political suicide to wait until 2021.
The CDU/CSU understands well this possible outcome. "If the SPD, after internal debate, wants to leave the coalition before the end of the parliamentary term, the Union should carry on governing alone," Wolfgang Schauble, who is now president of Germany's lower house of parliament and the "elder" of Christian Democrats, said on July 7.
"Governing alone," which means the minority government that enjoys no Bundestag support, is the only option for the CDU/CSU to escape from the premature elections. It is impossible to form a coalition with the Greens, and they need the premature elections to make real seats in the parliament out of the suddenly grown popularity, which is quite possible temporary, and to use the chance to get the chancellor's post. This is the reason why the CDU/CSU is unlikely to stay in power alone for long. If the Greens manage to convince the SPD and the Left, they will be quite capable of dismissing the government together at the first comfortable occasion.
The possible resignation of Merkel for health reasons is unlikely to change anything. This will just speed up the development of events and will make the new parliamentary elections inevitable. The SPD will not back a new candidate for the chancellor's position from the CDU, especially if Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer or Friedrich Merz, who are actually the only and the most possible candidates, are nominated. If the chancellor changes, this will be a reason for Social Democrats to quit the ruling coalition, while the failure of voting on a candidate for chancellor will result in the Bundestag reelection.
That is why at least until the wave of the Green popularity diminishes and the CDU/CSU again takes the first place in popularity ratings, it's better for the chancellor to stay in the post. At any cost, for the party's interests. But it's unlikely that she will succeed in doing so.