Merkel’s latest pandemic challenge: leading as a lame duck

Berlin – What a difference a year makes.

At the end of March 2020, Chancellor Angela Merkel was Win praise The world spoke of its ability to explain the science behind the coronovirus epidemic and to put Germany’s state leaders in line behind a nationwide strategy established in testing and contact-tracing that kept the number of deaths at bay.

Today, Ms. Merkel finds herself Apologizing to the public Eager to break a lockdown-fatigued public for a deceptive, ever-changing rule and to stand up against state leaders, even as a dangerous third wave of viruses changed the country widely Gone. Making matters worse, the national vaccination campaign is embroiled in bureaucracy and hampered by supply shortages.

With only a few months left until the end of Ms. Merkel’s fourth and final term – the Germans vote for the new government on 26 September – the woman known as the Troubleshooter, the troubleshooter for her ability to remain calm and Is solution-oriented under pressure. Her biggest challenge yet: Reigning as a lame duck.

The highly analytical style of politics that has served him well in the past – reading the polls and plotting a strategy focused to win support in the next round of voting – has resulted in results. Analysts say the weakness has not only freed the chancellor, but also needs to strengthen the country at a time when it needs strong leadership and clear communication.

“Angela Merkel is someone who thinks everything through to the end, but now has no end goal with months into her final term,” said Michael Koss, a professor of political science at Lupana University Lüneburg. “Finally there is an election in September.”

Ms. Merkel’s troubles were evident in her recent attempt to tighten coronavirus restrictions to limit Easter holidays, business closures, and gatherings. His plan, which was agreed to by the local governors, immediately came under fire from the public and business leaders. Barely 36 hours later, he quashed the idea, accepting blame for the mistake.

Although the move earned him widespread respect from politicians, it had little impact on the public, which struggles to understand lockouts, regulations and a complex system of reopening. Whereas four weeks ago, a clear majority, 52 percent, said the Germans said they felt the government was doing a good job managing the epidemic, with only 38 percent still approved by the end of last week, according to the regular Politbarometer Survey.

“We are seeing a great loss of confidence in the government from the people, and Merkel did not want to accept that,” said Uwe Jun, a professor of political science at the University of Trivan. “With her apology she wanted to send a signal that she is still in charge, she can be trusted and she wants to work to get the country through this epidemic.”

A few days after her apology, Ms. Merkel appeared on the Sunday evening talk show on the nation’s major public television station, ARD – a move made at the behest of Mr. June Notes Chancellor and only when she needed to reach the public is. But instead of making concrete proposals to change the five-day Easter lockdown, he again apologized and blamed the states for being lax.

“There needs to be concrete suggestions about what she wants,” Mr. June said.

One area where Germans are roaming for clarity is the country’s immunization program. Launched in late December, each state tasked with setting up its own vaccine centers has been slow to overcome, largely due to lack of deliveries – a situation that has resented Germany , Where the Pfizer-BioNT vaccine was developed.

On Tuesday, Germany announced that it was suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under 60 because of concerns over blood clots, adding chaos to the vaccination campaign and drawing criticism for it. European Union medical rights And the World Health Organization states that cases of cerebral venous thrombosis, blood clots in the brain that cause bleeding are so rare that they do not consider them grounds for changing the administration of the shot.

But even where sufficient vaccine is present, some Germans may be entangled by the bureaucracy. One, Laura Butkereite, a clinical specialist who works with the surgeon in the operating room, said she was denied her shot because she signed up for it herself.

“They sent me away because my employer should have made an appointment for me,” she said.

In this month’s poll, 92 percent of Germans said that the country’s vaccination campaign was not going well. Vaccination centers in several states will express displeasure over Easter public holidays, although officials said it was because there was not enough supply to keep them open.

BioNTech has said it will increase production of its vaccine in Europe to 2.5 billion doses, but with the first injection waiting for two months, the pledge will do little to slow down the virus in the coming weeks.

Ms Merkel has been unable to keep her arch-rulers – many of whom are already campaigning – in line behind the nationwide lockout that medical experts say is needed in Germany, which for the first time in Britain A highly transmission version seen has taken hold. The seven-day average of new virus cases as of Wednesday was approximately 17,140, ​​comparable to the end of January. According to the New York Times database.

“As much as people don’t want to hear it, what we need is a lockdown to limit the number of new infections,” Dr. Ralph Bartenschlager, molecular virologist at the University of Heidelberg, said in a panel discussion of the German Association. Virologist.

While the government’s communication in the first wave of the epidemic was consistent and clear, in recent weeks, clarity has given way to a patchwork of restrictions based on rising and falling numbers that people are struggling to abide by.

“There is always a discussion on how we get there,” Dr. Bertenschlager said. “Where we have problems, this thing has to be passed on to the people.”

In her interview on Sunday, Ms. Merkel threatened to centralize power in the chancellor if state leaders ignored the need for more sanctions for the movement.

The bar for such a move has been set at a high level – under the progressive system of Germany’s decentralized government by the Allies as a response to Hitler’s rule, making it difficult for the patriarch to enforce nationwide lockout without the support of governors. It is done. But Parliament can support such a move by amending a law governing public health in an epidemic.

Even members of the opposition have said that they would support strengthening the chancellor’s hand in this situation.

“The result of a war between competencies between state and federal leaders is preventing a consequential action,” said Jonk Dahmen for the emergency. “The problem will be that it can take weeks or months to debate this, but we need to do it now.”

The chancellor is scheduled to hold a meeting with state leaders again on April 12, although medical experts are warning that if the country does not function more quickly, intensive care wards may fill beyond capacity.

Using his weekly podcast to send Easter greetings, the Chancellor urged the Germans to stay home, take advantage of the free trials offered by many states and hope for more vaccines.

“It should be a quiet Easter, in a small circle, with very few contacts. I urge you to avoid all non-compulsory travel and we all follow all the rules consistently. “Together we will defeat this virus.”

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