German chancellor Angela Merkel has confirmed she will seek reelection next year.
“The appropriate moment is here,” she said. “I have thought endlessly about it. It wasn’t a trivial decision, as this is important for the country, for the party, and for me personally.”
Merkel’s decision to stand in next year’s general election follows a bruising state election in September, when her party lost support to the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland. Merkel, 62, had enviable approval ratings throughout her 11 years in power, but she has experienced a backlash earlier this year after since Germany opened its doors to 1.1 million refugees in 2015.
But a poll (link in German) in Bild am Sonntag this weekend showed 55% of Germans still want the chancellor to run again for a fourth term.
With Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s victory, Merkel has been described as liberalism’s last defender (paywall). And though her policy toward refugees earned her Time’s Person of the Year award last year, Merkel is under the same populist, anti-immigrant threat that won Trump the presidency.
In a rare show of regret, Merkel said in September that her government made mistakes during the refugee crisis, when she famously remarked, “We can manage this” (“wir shaffen das”). Merkel has promised to drop the “simple slogan,” which she acknowledged that some people felt “provoked by this sentence, and that was never the aim.” While Merkel didn’t exactly apologize for her open-door refugee policy, she admitted the government should have been better prepared for the large influx of asylum seekers.
If Merkel—who has run the country since 2005 and is usually described as the world’s most powerful woman—wins the election, she’ll match the record of Helmut Kohl, Germany’s longest-serving chancellor.
She has no real successor within her own party, so the news that she’s getting back on the horse for another term will come as a relief to her party. Its deputy leader, Julia Klöckner, told Welt am Sonntag that Merkel represents “stability and reliability in turbulent times because she holds society together and stands up to over-simplification.”
That may be wishful thinking—Breitbart News, the alt-right site that helped propel Trump to power, is setting up shop in Germany and France, both of which face elections in 2017.