The image of the Bundestag, the German federal parliament, filled with practically-unanimous applause for the former German chancellor who has ruled the country's destiny for the past 16 years and who this Wednesday formally handed power to her successor, the Social Democrat leader Olaf Scholz, is what one expects after an unquestionable leadership that brought undoubted benefits to her country while steering the European ship with more wise decisions than errors. Merkel, always austere when it comes to accepting praise, acknowledged the long standing ovation with a slight nod, from her place, now in the front row of the guests of honour.
Angela Merkel is history and she leaves with very high approval ratings for her political management. The applause she received recognizes this management, no doubt, but also the need for countries and citizens, in these times of governance that is grey and unrecognizable, to recognize very strong leadership, above all when it is positive. Merkel was only denied applause by the far right, of whom she has been heavily critical in recent years, and even in this aspect she knew to put herself on the right side of history before others and without caring, for example, that it might lose her power in one or two of Germany's Länder.
It is not an easy act to follow for Scholz, who is launching a government that is labelled as the traffic light coalition - the Social Democrats, Greens and Liberals - which is something new in Germany at federal level. Its policies on arrival have grabbed attention, to say the least: a 25% rise in the minimum wage for almost two million people, which the German Central Bank has criticized as concerning and, at the same time, a commitment to not raise taxes. Something to highlight in a change of government that ends the grand alliance between Christian Democrats and Social Democrats.
Scholz's arrival at the chancellery, coupled with uncertainties about the French presidential election, whose first round will be held on Sunday, 10th April, with the second and final vote a fortnight later, puts European politics into something of a slowdown until well into the second quarter of next year. For the first time in years, Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader of Rassemblement National, is not guaranteed a place in the second round, and that could hurt the prospects of current president Enmanuel Macron.
Valérie Pécresse, current president of the Île de France region, who defines herself as a mixture of two parts Merkel and one part Thatcher, at the head of Les Republicains, or the polemic Éric Zemmour, competing on the far right with Le Pen, and who now appears a little deflated, aspire to a place in the race for the Élysée palace. Scholz awaits a European partner, and meanwhile we are faced with the ridiculous sight of Pedro Sánchez presenting himself as in Galicia as a pioneer of the politics that Germany will pursue from now on.