Angela Merkel after exploratory talks on forming a new government broke down Tobias Schwarz/Getty Images

The Twilight of Angela Merkel

While Angela Merkel’s departure may not be imminent, her power is leaching away. With Germany set to turn further inward as it struggles to form a new government – and possibly heads to another federal election next year – a hole has emerged at the heart of Europe, and France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, will not be able to fill it alone.

BERLIN – Amid all the crises and upheavals that have battered the European Union over the past decade, one fixed point has been the stolid, stable government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But, following the collapse of talks to form a new coalition, Merkel suddenly seems mortal.

While Merkel’s departure may not be imminent, her power is leaching away. And with Germany set to turn further inward as it struggles to form a new government – and possibly heads to another federal election next year – a hole has emerged at the heart of Europe, and France’s bold young president, Emmanuel Macron, will not be able to fill it alone.

September’s federal elections had already weakened Merkel. Support for her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), plunged to its lowest level since 1949. With the Social Democrats (SPD), her previous grand-coalition partners, opting for opposition after slumping to their worst postwar result, Merkel was forced to seek an uneasy three-party coalition with the Euroskeptic and liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Europhile and more interventionist Greens. Then, on Sunday night, FDP leader Christian Lindner stormed out of the coalition talks.

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