Thomas Carlyle said that the history of the world is nothing other than the biography of a few great men. But Angela Merkel's 16 years of leadership has qualified the historian's dictum to conclude that the history of modern Europe is the biography of a few great men and women. The mother chancellor of 21st century Germany has retired from active politics after elections in which three quarters of Germans have endorsed the model of grand coalitions of government, based on a common and cohesive national project, as the political formula on which Germany wants to continue to grow as an autonomous power, as the leader of Europe and as an Atlantic ally. Three dimensions combined in a single strategy that has placed Germany at the forefront of the world order after the financial crisis and the pandemic.
The victory of the Social Democrat vice-chancellor, Olaf Scholz, by a narrow margin over the Christian Democrat CDU, and with the third choices of the Greens and Liberals, predict the continuity of a government based on the coalition of three of the four majority forces in the Bundestag. The negotiations between the new leaders, who also represent the four major ideological forces in the European Union, now open the door to a period of stability that will have to be achieved through agreements based on moderation and convergence in a common German project. With problems similar to those of other European partners, such as economic recovery and debt containment, and challenges similar to those of other global powers in areas such as digitalisation, decarbonisation and demographic evolution.
The traffic light coalition between social democrats, greens and liberals, being the most likely, presents some cracks in its foundations that will manifest themselves in the political negotiation that is now beginning. Among others, the weak Atlantic commitment of the Greens, who do not look favourably on a reinforced NATO, in the midst of the European debate on the need to redefine the parameters of democratic European security in the new order of competition between powers. But the Euro-American commitment to sustainability and the fight against climate change will play an important political role in advancing the design of a secure society, not only in terms of reducing criminal threats but also environmental security. A Jamaica coalition with the CDU at the head of the tripartite is less likely, although it cannot be ruled out. Nor is a new grand coalition that would once again include the two major parties in government.
But the exemplary nature of the German elections does not end with the stability anticipated by the results. The failure of the post-communists and the far-right Alternative for Germany has placed German politics in a broad area of consensus around the institutions, the European project and the overcoming of populist and destabilising influences. If the historical assessment of a political trajectory is measured in the capacity of influence that a leader passes on to his or her successors, his or her imprint, Angela Merkel's legacy in Germany anticipates a future of change in continuity, on which we should reflect in Spain, a country whose current history does not abound in the biographies of some great men.