It is probably the most remarkable change of strategy we have seen in this election campaign. However, it comes from none of the three candidates for chancellor, but from the Chancellor.
For a long time, Angela Merkel refused to take a position with regard to the battle for her succession. Apart from a rather dutiful participation in the CDU/CSU campaign kick-off at Berlin's Tempodrom, there was not a word from her on who she thought would be best to inherit her 16 years as chancellor. So clear was her Silence, that the first jokes were already circulating in Berlin about not knowing whether Merkel would even vote for the CDU.
Merkel is enthusiastic about Laschet after all
But since a few days everything is different. In the last few meters, Merkel seems to have discovered her enthusiasm for the CDU/CSU candidate for chancellor, Armin Laschet, after all – or even the need to campaign for him. She appeared with him several times in the past few days, sometimes during a joint visit to the Flooded area, then at an event held by the CDU and CSU on Monday at party headquarters in Berlin, where the CDU/CSU's new digital agenda was presented.
Each time, Merkel found effusive words for Laschet, who has been rather unlucky so far. Whoever could lead a state as large as North Rhine-Westphalia would also be the right person to Germany to lead, she said. Further joint public appearances are planned, including on 21. September in Stralsund, Merkel's constituency.
Merkel's speech on Tuesday in the Bundestag undoubtedly marked the culmination of this new strategy. Merkel stepped up to the podium as chancellor and transformed herself into an election campaigner in front of the plenum and the public. She warned against Left-wing alliance and campaigned for a federal government led by the CDU/CSU with Laschet as chancellor. Only one of them stands for "stability, reliability, moderation and center". The opposition was fuming.
Is Merkel's appearance appropriate?
However, Merkel's appearance does indeed raise questions: Is it appropriate for a chancellor – who, by definition of her office, must have the well-being of all citizens in mind – to be in the Bundestag so clearly party-politically positioned? Or is the parliament as an arena of political competition not perhaps even the best place for such an intervention?
That the longtime former CDU leader campaigning for the candidate of its own party is actually a matter of course. What is irritating, however, is that she is doing it with unprecedented verve during her last speech as chancellor in the Bundestag, of all places.
There is another reason why this performance is surprising. Because he is very uncharacteristic behavior for Merkel. She completely stayed out of the election for the CDU presidency. And also, when it came to the question of who would be selected as the Chancellor candidate into the race for the Union, she practiced restraint.
Forsa survey devastating for CDU/CSU
The fact that she is now so demonstratively standing up for Laschet, even in front of parliament, could also be interpreted as a sign that she is seriously considering her legacy and her party existential danger sees.
The latest Forsa survey shows how justified such a concern is. It turns out to be devastating for the CDU/CSU – both for the party and for Laschet. This must now be based on a Miracle hope – or hope that there is some kind of silent conservative majority in Germany that will vote for continuity in politics if not for him. Whether Merkel's mixing of their roles on Tuesday in the Bundestag will hurt or help Laschet remains to be seen.