I have been meaning to write this post for as long as I can remember. But it is difficult to motivate yourself when the elections seem like a done deal. It is now only a few days to the elections and the gap between Angela Merkel and her opponent Peer Steinbruck stands at 49% to 32%. Granted, Germany is a parliamentary democracy. But it still doesn’t look good for the social democrats. German opinion polls, like most things German (and unlike Kenyan opinion polls), can be painfully accurate. A week before the last polls, Angela was leading in the opinion polls with a comparable margin. Her coalition went on to win the elections.
So what is it that makes Angela Merkel so invincible? I have been thinking about this and here is my list of the reasons for her success:
1. She is a woman
This is something that most feminists would probably not want to hear. But there is enormous power in being a woman. In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook chief operating officer says that it is very difficult for women to make it to the top of their professions. She goes on and says that it is even more difficult for those who make it to stay there. She probably had never heard of Angela Merkel.
I recently watched Angela Merkel in one of those meet-the-electorate talk shows. Asked by one of the guests whether she knows how to bake a certain cake or whatever (I seriously don’t know how such people make it to a political show!), she went on to offer a detailed explanation as I sat there open mouthed. The amazing thing was how warm and approachable she came across. Whether she was putting on a show or not, Angela Merkel’s ‘humility’ is a secret weapon difficult to beat.
3. Peer Steinbruck
My former basketball coach Ronny Owino used to tell us, “You are as good as your opponent”. What he meant was that your performance is directly related to that of your opponent. The straight talking social democrats’ candidate Peer Steinbruck is a gift to Angela Merkel. His forthright answers have often landed him in trouble. This past week, in a satirical interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung in which one only responds with gestures, he showed the middle finger in response to the question about his supposed ‘blunders’. I personally found it refreshing and hilarious. I am not sure I’m in the majority though…
Even though we all like to attribute our success to our own abilities and brilliance, luck plays a significant role. The current mood in Germany is definitely not for change. The German economy survived a difficult period and continues to do well. Is this because of Angela Merkel’s brilliance? I don’t know. Maybe.
5. She is no one’s opponent
During the much hyped TV duel between Angela Merkel and her social democrat opponent Peer Steinbruck, one of the moderators Stefan Raab asked Angela a question that left me in stiches but which pretty much sums up Angela. ‘Are you sure you are not a social democrat?’ he wanted to know.
Angela knows exactly what the electorate wants to hear. She has no qualms about adopting her opponents’ popular positions. In other words, she is a politician extraordinaire!