Dull but worthy Merkel needs to up her game

Angela Merkel © Getty images
Angela Merkel is favourite to win the election

Barring an “extreme shock”, Chancellor Angela Merkel looks set to win Germany’s federal election on 24 September, says Stefan Wagstyl in the FT. That would give her a fourth term and cement her position as “the EU’s top politician and a force for international cooperation in a world buffeted by political crises and a surge in nationalism”. As Helmut Jung, consultant at the GMS polling agency, put it, the Germans  are reluctant “to change their captain in a storm”.

Unfortunately, however, her “soporific” election campaign reflects the stultifying complacency of the political establishment as a whole, says WirtschaftsWoche. “We’ve never had it so good, so there’s practically nothing we need to do” is the tacit consensus. Unemployment at a 36-year low of 5.6%; a balanced budget; record tax receipts and exports running at €3.5bn a day. But take a closer look, and the picture is less rosy. Germany suffers from a housing shortage, crumbling infrastructure and a business community that is “sleeping through the digital revolution”. Then there are the shrinking wages of the bottom 40%, an ageing population that will soon act as a brake on economic growth, suffocating red tape and rising carbon emissions, says The Economist.

Merkel “bears a good bit of the blame for all this”. In her next – and possibly last – term, she must do far more to prepare Germany for the future. She could use Germany’s budget surplus (€26bn and rising) to invest in “physical and human capital”. She should seek advice from French president Emmanuel Macron on developing high-tech industries, and burnish Germany’s foreign-policy credentials by “pressing on” towards the Nato target for military spending.

Nor will Germany ensure its future prosperity unless it helps “Europe get its house in order”, adds Stefan Theil in Handelsblatt. A “banking and debt crisis festers”, the “economic fallout” from Brexit is unclear and the EU still can’t agree on how to deal with the migrant crisis. Germany has been repeatedly urged to show more active leadership. “The next four years will show whether that time has finally come.”