Angela Merkel is “ definitely a lame duck ” after she was forced to make a humiliating turnaround by scrapping plans for a strict Easter lockout, a former German government spokesman said.
Bela Anda, a press secretary under Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schröder, said Merkel had ‘eroded’ her power by the fiasco – with her party’s polls in free fall six months before an election that will determine her successor.
Merkel asked the German public for “forgiveness” at an astonishing press conference on Wednesday, where she said the widely criticized plan for a total closure at Easter was “my fault, and my fault only.”
“The political world in Berlin will conclude that as of today Angela Merkel is definitely – I’m sorry to say – a lame duck,” Anda said. statue last night.
‘It is certainly clear that a decision that is made and then not carried out will mean an erosion of power for Merkel as of today.’
Angela Merkel at a press conference on Wednesday, where she announced she is scrapping plans for an Easter lock, which she described as a ‘mistake’
Merkel, who has led Germany and Europe through a series of crises during her 16-year tenure, announced in 2018 that she would not be pursuing reelection this year.
Just a few months ago, she seemed about to leave office at the height of her strength, having achieved high marks for her early handling of the pandemic.
But public confidence has waned amid a lengthy winter break that failed to keep contamination rates low enough to allow a reopening.
Now cases are on the rise again – while vaccines are coming too slowly to protect much of the population from getting sick with Covid-19.
The distribution of vaccines in Germany is hampered by a series of problems, including the public reluctance to take the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Only 9.2 percent of the German population has received a first dose of a vaccine so far, compared to 41.7 percent of the total UK population.
The rate fully vaccinated in Germany, at 4.1 percent, is barely higher than that of 3.6 percent in Great Britain, despite the UK having given virtually no second dose for weeks.
Some German politicians have called on Berlin to turn to Russia’s Sputnik V shot to speed up the rollout, but EU regulators have not yet ruled on the vaccine.
The slow progress means that most of the German population is still vulnerable to Covid-19 as the third wave kicks in, partly due to the UK variant.
The number of weekly cases has risen above 100,000 for the first time since January, with 100,912 infections in the past seven days.
The infection rate in Germany has risen again in a resurgence partly due to the UK variant of the disease, again with over 100,000 cases per week
The mortality rate is lower than during the winter peak, but the decline has stalled in recent days, with daily rates nearly identical to a week ago
Merkel and state leaders held marathon talks Monday where they agreed on a five-day lockdown at Easter, where even supermarkets would be largely closed.
But it received massive criticism from all sides, including companies and medical experts, and Merkel admitted on Wednesday that the plan was not feasible.
“I take ultimate responsibility for everything,” Merkel said, adding that “an error should be called an error, and above all, corrected.”
‘I know that this whole process has created extra uncertainty. I deeply regret that and I ask all our citizens for forgiveness, ”she said.
While party colleagues praised Merkel for taking responsibility for the fiasco, her statement sparked calls for a vote of confidence in the Bundestag.
And despite the turnaround, nearly 40 million Germans could still face strict new measures, including curfews and mandatory masks in their own cars.
Monday’s talks ended in an agreement that the ultra-strict measures would apply to areas with an infection rate of more than 100 cases per 100,000 people in a week.
But nearly half of Germany’s 412 administrative districts are already above this threshold, including cities like Frankfurt, Cologne and parts of Berlin.
Local authorities have the final say on restrictions, but the measures Berlin recommends, such as curfews and masks in cars, are said to be the toughest imposed in Germany during the pandemic.
‘The situation is serious. The number of cases is rising exponentially and the beds in intensive care are getting full again, ” Merkel said Monday after the talks.
Still, one state announced today that it would lift the lockdown starting April 6 and reopen cinemas, theaters, concert halls and alfresco dining.
The measures in Saarland state would allow up to 10 people to gather in public after Easter, contradicting Merkel’s call for caution.
Merkel’s Christian Democrats chose Armin Laschet (pictured) as their new leader in January, putting him at the top of Merkel’s list of potential successors.
Markus Soeder (pictured), the leader of Merkel’s CDU’s Bavarian sister party, could also throw his hat in ahead of the September elections
Even before the latest humiliation, Merkel’s party had fallen in the polls and received a kick from voters in two regional elections earlier this month.
Merkel’s conservative bloc scored just 26 percent of the vote in a new poll released Wednesday, their worst result since before the pandemic.
The question of who will lead the center-right to the September election has yet to be resolved in the coming weeks.
Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) chose a new leader, Armin Laschet, at a party conference in January, making him the most obvious choice.
But that result was not the final word on who will become chancellor, with Markus Soeder of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party also seen as a possible candidate.
Anda, the former government spokesman, said power would likely shift to Laschet and Soeder as the ‘lame duck’ Merkel nears the end of her tenure.
The German Green Party came second in Wednesday’s poll with 22 percent of the vote, a result that could potentially form a coalition with the CDU.
Merkel’s current coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD), ranked third with 18 percent, meaning the current alliance is unlikely to have a majority.
There is also talk of a possible three-way coalition between the SPD, the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP).
In the latest poll, those three would collectively receive 48 percent of the vote, possibly enough for a small majority in the Bundestag.
Such a coalition would remove the CDU from power for the first time since Merkel succeeded Schröder in 2005.