Angela Merkel has shaped Germany for the past 16 years, but now she is retiring. A whole generation knew Merkel only as chancellor. One member of this generation includes Emil Wensel. He’s a teenager from Düsseldorf who just finished high school. He joined Union Junge, the CDU youth party, at the age of 14. He describes Merkel as a reliable head of government, for him she represents stability. “She had to manage various crises, you could even say that she drifted from one crisis to another,” he adds.
An experienced successor
In Emil’s opinion, the Conservatives are well prepared for a new era without Merkel. He trusts the party leader and CDU chancellor candidate, Armin Laschet. Emil maintains that Laschet, who is Minister President of North Rhine-Westphalia, has done a good job in this federal state and says he has experience. Emil is truly convinced that Laschet will succeed in the federal government.
Emil is also one of nearly three million young adults called to vote. Election researchers like Erik Flügge say this generation in particular welcomes change and should get it with a new chancellor. Flügge even expects a “radically different picture”. According to the latest polls, among 18-29 year olds, Merkel’s CDU party is losing out to the Greens and the Liberals.
Johannes Klein is part of a green university group. He criticizes Merkel for not addressing issues that concern young people sufficiently. Its main concerns are social justice and climate protection. What Klein wants is a “sustainable future for young people but also stable pensions” for their grandparents. Philosophy student Klein expects the new government to pursue policies that consider all generations.
Angela Merkel’s chancellery will soon be a thing of history, but some of its most iconic moments remain in the memories of young voters. We asked several random young voters what came to mind when they thought of Merkel. For Alex Urban, what particularly stands out is when she said “Internet is new territory”. For Fatma Sustam, it is the refugees who shout “thank you” to Merkel who stand out. For Alexander Lengersdorf, this is his motivational phrase “We can do it” from 2015.
In many ways Angela Merkel has shaped German youth and it is now incumbent on them to choose her successor. Although 60 million Germans have the right to vote, more than two-thirds of them are in their second half of life as Germany has an aging population. It will surely influence the ballot box, but in this tight election campaign, young citizens could provide candidates with the last missing votes they need to make their way to the Chancellery.