THE BLOG

A Worried World Looks Toward Merkel For Moral Leadership

28/09/2017 11:58 BST | Updated 28/09/2017 11:59 BST
REUTERS

In the German general elections held on 24 September Chancellor Angela Merkel secured a fourth consecutive term, but her bitter sweet victory came with a shock as the huge electoral gain of the German AfD (Alternative für Deutschland or Alternative for German) has changed the established political dynamics. The rise of a rabid anti-immigration and anti-Islam right-wing party, formed only a few years ago with a vow to fight the "invasion of foreigners", has raised fears in a country with a dangerous history of ultra-nationalism. AfD raised its vote bank by a staggering 7.9% (from 4.7% in 2013 to 12.6%). Overnight it has become the third largest party with over 90 seats in the 709-seat federal parliament. Chancellor Angela Merkel's political group CDU-CSU slipped by 8.5% (from 41.5% in 2013) in the popular vote.

Angela Merkel has been a symbol of stability in German politics since 2005. However in 2015, when the EU was paralysed with its indecisions on the mainly Syrian refugees entering Europe, Ms Merkel made a unilateral decision of allowing hundreds of thousands into Germany. It was a bold humanitarian step that averted the European refugee crisis to some extent but she was not forgiven by many of her own supporters for her compassion towards refugees, despite later tightening the asylum rules.

The death of the two-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, on a Turkish beach in early September 2015 touched European consciences and reminded all of the plight of Syrians who were leaving their country due to a hellish war between the brutal Assad regime and mindless terror group Daesh (ISIS). Sadly, apart from Sweden in the beginning, Europe as a whole remained unreceptive to welcoming those fleeing from a terrorised country. The AfD were massively emboldened during the 2015 New-Year's-Eve celebrations in Cologne, Hamburg and some other German cities when hundreds of women were sexually assaulted by men identified as foreign nationals and the debate in German politics shifted.

Time will tell whether the longest serving post-War German Chancellor can win back voters' confidence, marginalise the right-wing AfD to a manageable level and steer the EU through the choppy waters of global politics. In a world of massive uncertainty and moral impoverishment nationalist-populist, but elected, leaderships are now at the helms of the main global powers such as America, Russia and India. Cynicism of human rights and the drumbeat of "national interest" appear to be at the heart of authoritarian populism across the world. Both the Brexit and Trump elections in 2016 have only exacerbated the nationalist tendency with an accompanied bigotry.

Nationalistic racism in recent decades and centuries has proved as appealing as religious bigotry to many people. Fanaticism and terrorism seem to be widening in many parts of the world. While Daesh is now on the run in Iraq and Syria, Buddhist monks in Myanmar have taken upon themselves the task of ethnically cleansing the Rohingya people from their own homes, all under the eyes of the world community. The UN human rights chief accused Burma for "textbook ethnic cleansing" in Rakhine state. In spite of passionate appeals from globally renowned religious leaders such as Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu as well as UN Secretary General António Guterres, Myanmar's de facto civilian leader the Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi has turned a blind eye to genocide and mass rape; a blatant example of sacrificing principle for power.

The humanitarian crisis across the world is rapidly becoming out of control. With at least 430,000 Rohingya people added in the list, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide has risen to 65.6 million! The UN has been turned ineffective and impotent mainly because of the short-sightedness and "national interest" driven politics from global powers. America under President Trump has all but abdicated its global role; President Trump's public spat with North Korea is not only a new low in world politics but frightening in its rhetoric that could easily escalate.

The world's humanitarian crisis on the one hand and religious and political violence on the other cannot be solved without the political will, fairness and some level of moral leadership.

But where is it now in our world? With Britain on its way out from the EU, its global role is seen by many to be on the wane.

Human beings are inherently good, what is needed is compassionate and wise political leadership to steer and navigate through the challenging terrain. The world desperately needs recognition of human dignity, democratic values and respect for the rule of law. We desperately need more compassionate global statesmanship.

In a world filled with unstable men the most powerful woman has been re-elected to her fourth term as the Chancellor of the strongest economy in Europe. The worried world is looking towards her for political and moral leadership.