German Chancellor Angela Merkel grew up in communist-controlled East Germany. Therefore, Doctor Merkel may have been slightly embarrassed when at a conference in Hanover, her party reelected her as the standardbearer in the next elections by a vote of nearly 98% and gave her an 8 minute standing ovation to boot.
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) knows where its bread is buttered and and mutti-mother, as the Germans call Merkel, is the party's major asset going into the 2013 elections. She is being portrayed in party promotional materials alongside the Federal Republic's Konrad Adenauer and her own mentor Helmut Kohl who reunified Germany as part of the pantheon of Christian Democratic leadership.
The European debt crisis, that has functioned as an albatross for incumbent politicians in Western Europe, has acted as a recruiting sergeant for Doctor Merkel. With economies in Europe teetering and unemployment soaring, the German economy is humming away smoothly and the voters are appropriately grateful.
As a result, the Christian Democrats are outdistancing their major rival, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), by a wide margin. Merkel is not resting on the her laurels and she is quietly performing a makeover of the party by promoting women, immigrants and young activists, thus hoping to insulate her party from the troubles that have befallen conservative parties in other Western democracies.
Despite her success, Angela Merkel is not home free. German voters do not award a single party with an outright majority. The traditional ally of the Christian Democrats, the Free Democrats, are polling under the 5% electoral threshold. From Hanover, Merkel sent the coalition's junior partner marching orders to improve their performance.
There have been times in the history of the Federal Republic where Christian Democratic voters strategically voted for the Free Democrats to make sure their coalition partner would make it over the 5% barrier.
If this fails, Merkel will have to fall back on a grand coalition with the social Democrats or do something that has never taken place and form a coalition with the Greens, who for their part, have not ruled out such an option, although their partner of choice is the Social Democratic Party.