German Chancellor Angela Merkel has returned from a three-week Alpine holiday to embark Saturday on what may be the most bizarre election campaign in the country’s post-war history.
After months of studiously ignoring the race for the September 24 election, Merkel will kick off a series of rallies across the country with an hour-long speech to supporters in the western city of Dortmund.
But just six weeks out from the European Union’s top economic power and most populous nation going to the polls, Germans are barely taking notice of the election.
The CDU has plumped for a soft-focus campaign centred on patriotism and Merkel herself. The party drew ridicule for its soporific slogan “For a Germany in which we live well and happily”, and a campaign poster featuring a young female voter literally asleep in a meadow.
In a column called “Wander Woman” this week, Rene Pfister of Der Spiegel noted the fascination Germans had with the down-to-earth images of Merkel hiking in gear she has been wearing year after year that were splashed on the pages of newspapers and magazines during her holiday.
“It is among the curiosities of this election campaign that even Merkel’s summer holiday led her poll numbers to climb,” Pfister said, adding that her no-nonsense style mirrored Germans’ own view of themselves.
Even after 12 years in power, Merkel, frequently called the world’s most powerful woman and Europe’s de facto leader, looks set for a fourth term.
Gone are the warnings of her political demise heard at the height of the 2015 refugee influx, when nearly 900,000 asylum seekers entered the country. “It is probably the strangest election race in the history of the Federal Republic,” Heribert Prantl of the national broadsheet Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote this week.
The party drew ridicule for its soporific slogan “For a Germany in which we live well and happily”, and a campaign poster featuring a young female voter literally asleep in a meadow.