Frank-Walter Steinmeier: Can Germany’s “anti-Trump” put an end to Merkel’s political crisis?


But not everyone was happy.

Some traffickers of fatality complained that Steinmeier was too important to be "sent to the periphery of power".

After all, as Torben Luetjen and Lars Geiges wrote his biography of Steinmeier, the German presidents "do not really have to make many decisions".

All that changed on Monday.

  What's next for Germany when the myth of Merkel implodes?
After the coalition talks to form a new government unexpectedly collapsed on Sunday, delivering a blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel, it was President Steinmeier, a man more accustomed to discovering monuments than getting his hands dirty with politics parliamentary who was given the unenviable task of restoring order.

This week he will meet with five party leaders, urging them to restart the talks, or start new ones.

If they refuse, Steinmeier is the man who could put the country on a complicated road to new elections, unprecedented in German post-war history.

"Courage is the soul of democracy," he said in his first speech as president in March of this year. You will need a lot of that in the days and weeks to come.

So, who is Frank-Walter Steinmeier?

The pragmatic bureaucrat

Steinmeier's trip from a working-clbad home in north-west Germany – his father was a carpenter and his factory-working mother – for the president's office is remarkable.

But it's nothing special, according to Luetjen. "There's nothing extraordinary about him … He's usually described as being quite boring."

Steinmeier's first foray into politics came in 1991 when he took a job with the Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder, then state president and then German chancellor. – and soon he was running his office.

According to Luetjen, Steinmeier quickly began to fit into the mold of a typical German bureaucrat.

  As German Foreign Minister, Steinmeier supported the candidacy of Barack Obama for the presidency and the two men worked closely together. Steinmeier has spoken much less favorably about President Trump.

His two periods as Foreign Minister, during which he addressed a military crisis in Ukraine, the financial collapse of Greece and unprecedented levels of refugee arrivals to Europe and was instrumental in negotiating a nuclear agreement with Iran, only confirmed that impression.

It may not be "too exciting," as Luetjen admits, but he is pragmatic, patient and rarely dazed.

"It's good to find deals and talk everywhere," says Luetjen. "Now that we have this situation, close to a constitutional crisis, those are talents that are really needed."

The negotiator

The appointment of Steinmeier as president surprised many. He is a man who "enjoyed real power," explains Luetjen.

Following the Second World War, the previously powerful role of the president became largely ceremonial.

He or she is the public face of the nation, a German ambbadador to the world. When Steinmeier speaks, people listen.

But he is not known as a great speaker. And "he did not seem comfortable with becoming a public figure" at the beginning of his presidency, says Luetjen.

  On Tuesday, Steinmeier met with Christian Lindner, leader of the Free Democrats and the man who announced his party & # 39; retire from the coalition talks on Sunday night.

He believes that Steinmeier, the creator of agreements, the man who "likes to do things", will accept the challenge of restoring order in the current chaotic German. political landscape.

"Now he's back, doing real politics," says Luetjen.

What are your chances of success?

Luetjen and Geiges describe Steinmeier as the "master of anti-chaos."

"If someone can (make a breakthrough), then it's him," says Luetjen. "Yes, I think he is capable of doing this."

After making a brief statement from his official residence on Monday afternoon, Steinmeier had the aura of a disapproving school principal who admonished a group of rebellious students.

He urged all parties to come to the table and refuse to consider the possibility of new elections, the option favored by Merkel and Martin Schulz, leader of Steinmeier's own Social Democratic Party.

"I hope everyone is willing to negotiate so that it is possible to form a government for the foreseeable future," he said. Responsibility can not simply be "returned to the voters."

  Despite his different partisan loyalties, Steinmeier has worked closely with Chancellor Angela Merkel since 2005 and they share a pragmatic and prudent approach to politics.

Despite his caution and composure, Steinmeier does not sting his words. Three months before Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. UU., Steinmeier (then foreign minister) described him as a "hate preacher".

And speaking right after Trump's election, Steinmeier made no attempt to disguise his deep disappointment. "Nothing will be easier (now)," he said, "much will be more difficult."

It has even been described in the German media as the "anti-Trump".

Steinmeier has also spoken out strongly against the rise of populism in Germany, embodied in the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD), which entered the federal Parliament for the first time in the September elections and won 12.6 % of the votes .

Despite the country's history, Germany is not immune to populism and the damage it causes to democracy, Steinmeier warned in March.

With Merkel partly responsible for the recent success of the AfD, according to some German politicians. and weakened by a poor electoral result and failed coalition talks, Steinmeier is "the most stable figure in German politics at this time," according to Luetjen.

"He's the last survivor of a generation, and he could be the right Bundestag president." at the right time "

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