Chancellor Angela Merkel to seek 4th Term as Germany’s leader

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, domestically under siege but widely seen as a pillar of Western liberalism, announced on Sunday that she will seek a fourth term next year.

A scientist with a low-key manner, Ms. Merkel rejected the idea that, after the election of Donald J. Trump as president in the United States, she had a lone role in keeping Western liberalism alive. “That is grotesque, even almost absurd,” she told reporters.

But she also said that the campaign ahead of the German elections in fall 2017 would be unlike any other she has fought in an increasingly polarised country. She faces stronger challenges on the right and left, while the war in Syria, the arrival of large numbers of migrants and the continuing euro crisis tear at Germany and place new demands on its people.

Since the election in the United States, speculation had mounted that Ms. Merkel would bow to pressure to run again and uphold liberal values in a world transformed by Mr. Trump’s victory and Britain’s vote last summer to leave the European Union.

Ms. Merkel, 62, has served 11 years as chancellor. She is the first woman and the first person raised in Communist East Germany to hold the post.

Since coming to power in 2005, Ms. Merkel has gradually acquired a political stature commensurate with the power of her country, Europe’s largest economy and its most populous nation, with about 81 million inhabitants.

But her image as the cautious caretaker of her country’s interests has suffered over the past year, after she opened Germany to hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers, many of them Muslim refugees fleeing wars in the Middle East and Africa.

The prospect of integrating almost 1 million newcomers into Germany has weakened Ms. Merkel’s standing at home, despite garnering some praise, particularly from President Obama.

Visiting Berlin last week, Mr. Obama lavished compliments on his longest-standing ally in his eight years in office, saying that if he were German, he would vote for her.

Ms. Merkel responded to the election of Mr. Trump with a robust appeal for him to follow Western values and respect human dignity. This, she said, was the basis of any close cooperation.

Even as commentators and leaders outside Germany invoked her stature, Ms. Merkel has been eager not to hog the limelight.

“One person alone can never solve everything,” she said on Friday at a news conference with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain. “We are strong only together. In that, I want to do what my duty is as chancellor.”

In the days before her party leadership met on Sunday, several Christian Democrats said that the next parliamentary elections would be difficult to win with Ms. Merkel, but impossible to win without her.

As she entered the atrium of her party headquarters on Sunday, she was applauded by about two dozen people on a second-floor balcony.

While Ms. Merkel mentioned several times that her ability to continue would be contingent on good health, she showed little weariness and gradually became almost feisty as she outlined the challenges to German industry and citizens in the 21st century.

Germans should stick to their tried and tested concept of “social market economy,” a blend of welfare state and capitalism, as they navigate this new world, Ms. Merkel said.

But she acknowledged that even in this conservative and comparatively wealthy country, politics has been thrown into turmoil by the rise of the populist, right-wing Alternative for Germany party.

It is now in 10 of the country’s 16 state Parliaments and seems certain to win seats in the federal Parliament next year. That would scramble conventional coalition building, since no mainstream party has been willing to govern with the populists.

Frauke Petry, one of the leaders of Alternative for Germany, criticised the idea of Ms. Merkel’s gaining another four years in office. “Germany cannot afford another term for Angela Merkel,” Ms. Petry wrote on Twitter.

Ms. Merkel’s role as a beacon of liberal values may also be dented by the power of populism elsewhere in Europe, whose union has been thrown into ever greater doubt since Britain, the Continent’s leading military power, voted in June to leave the European Union.