After 16 years and four terms at the helm, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will exit the stage in a matter of months. Her successor is not yet in sight. Her centre-right Christian Democratic Union delivered its worst-ever performance in the Sept 26 election, winning only 24.1 per cent of the vote share and looking likely to spend a spell in the opposition. Mr Olaf Scholz has a clearer path to power, in a probable alliance with the Greens and the Free Democrats. His centre-left Social Democratic Party, however, won just 25.7 per cent of the votes, which implies that his junior coalition partners will play an outsize role in the new government's foreign and economic policies. Whoever succeeds Dr Merkel will have to fill her no-nonsense shoes and step nimbly to take on plenty of unfinished business. There is much to study in the statecraft of one of the world's most respected politicians, who has been accorded high ratings both within and outside Germany.
Dr Merkel led her country, and steered the European Union too, through a number of crises: the great recession of 2007-2008, the euro zone debt crisis in the early 2010s, Russia's 2014 invasion of Ukraine, the Syrian refugee crisis that engulfed the continent a year later, the chaos set off by Britain's departure from the EU and the disruption of the Trump years. And last but not least, her scientific approach and massive funding support shored up defences against the Covid-19 pandemic. Through the many upheavals, she did not let waves of nationalism or populism crowd out her sensible politics.