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Besides all the news about the U.S. presidential election and the accelerating hysterical process of selecting feasible candidates on both sides of the isle, there is another major position to be filled this year. At the end of 2016 Ban Ki-moon, the well regarded Secretary-General of the United Nations will end his second term without any possibility of reelection. Widely uncovered by the media as of now, this race is most likely to be determined behind the curtains of international diplomacy. However, candidates are already preparing for their bid on what can most accurately be described as the prime position on the international diplomatic circuit. After Kofi Annan – representing the African continent – and Ban Ki-moon – as the candidate of the Asian world – the new Secretary-General will most likely be of European descent. Rarely mentioned by mainstream media one of the candidates could be no one else than the current German chancellor Angela Merkel. Facing reelection in 2017, a transition from Berlin to the east side of Manhattan could appears to be as an elegant way out of a domestic situation that seems to get messier from week to week.
Grown up in a totalitarian state Angela Merkel is often portrayed as being reluctant to any form of injustice. This might in part explain her consistent, humanitarian driven behavior in the current refugee crisis. But it may also be the reason her party and her constituencies might ultimately dig her – disregarding her continuously strong position in recent nationwide polls. In light of weighing in the consequences of keeping Dublin III in place against fulfilling the obligations of the Geneva Refugee Convention she clearly opted for the latter. A decision she was mainly praised for in the beginning of the current crisis last summer. Unfortunately, things grew a little more complicated over the course of the past 6 months: a common European solution is nowhere in sight, political attacks even from own party and coalition members are growing more severe and right wing populist parties such as the AFD are gaining momentum just weeks before major state elections will bring Merkel’s current course to a test on the ballot.
Internationally, however, Angela Merkel is still well respected and her course is mainly seen as a humanitarian effort to milder the dreadful situation for millions of war torn refugees. This may not hold true for many European countries, but surely does so for major countries across the atlantic as well as to the east. Her new nickname “Chancellor of the Free World” was not coined without reason. Opting for the position as Secretary-General of the United Nations seems to be an appropriate measure to transfer a topic she seems to truly care about to an international and multilateral level where impact and leverage to negotiate common solutions is ultimately higher. No doubt, a step like this would also come with many other advantages to her. Being in the middle of her third term as German chancellor, she may face a similar deadlock situation as Helmut Kohl did in the past years of his chancellorship. After having reunited Germany (well, at least having played a major part in the reunification), he clung to the office for just too long. His way out by ultimately loosing against Gerhard Schröder in 1998 and finding himself in the midst of a very dirty party donations scandal negatively effects his legacy until present times. Last but not least a promotion of that kind would make away with all domestic and European criticism and elevate her to a position more immune to political attacks and everyday bargaining.
Angela Merkel – known for her strategic and comprehensive problem solving approach – has probably already made up her mind. The rest of us will indefinitely know as soon as Ban Ki-moon leaves office at the end of December. It surely would be a transition of great consequence.