It feels like an age-old story in democracies: even the most popular political parties seem to hang on to power for too long. Eventually, either voters tire of the same leadership year-in, year-out and hunger for something new, or the party finally precipitates a scandal that unceremoniously ends the popular experiment.
Germany already has one of these stories: Helmut Kohl, the country’s longest-serving chancellor and unifier of Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall, was engulfed in a scandal over illegal party donations. Ironically, one of the politicians who gave him a final nudge over the edge was Angela Merkel. And now, just as Merkel herself nears Kohl’s record of service, could history be repeating itself?
This week, Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union party became mired in a major corruption scandal. Two senior politicians in the lower house of Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, were found to have profited from the coronavirus pandemic through the supply of face masks. Even more worrying is that the damage might not end with just two MPs. Senior Christian Democrats admit it’s possible that other members of the party might have engaged in similar conflicts of interest and profiteering during the pandemic. They’ve promised a full investigation.
If those investigations bear fruit and more financial exploitation is uncovered, then this mask scandal could quickly grow out of control and feed into that far bigger but well-worn narrative: that the ruling party is in league with business interests and has become too cosy after nearly two decades in government. Angela Merkel is retiring as chancellor in September, come what may. But her Christian Democrats and its new leader Armin Laschet (pictured, on left, with Merkel) have to prove that they have what it takes to govern without her – and that they haven’t become complacent, like so many long-governing parties around the world that came before them.
For a full report on the Christian Democrats’ mask scandal tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.