Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany ("chancellor" is the equivalent of a Canadian prime minister) has emerged as the indispensable enlightened statesperson of the Western world – particularly in the era of Donald Trump and the fading days of the Obama administration.
It's good news, then, that she has decided to lead the Christian Democratic Union for her fourth, and last, four-year election mandate as chancellor – and as a standard-bearer of liberal values in a fractured Europe.
Ms. Merkel's moderate conservative party was not always seen as the natural party of enlightenment. To her left lie the Social-Democrats, the Greens and the ex-communist Left. But her prompt initial response to the refugee crisis – "We can do this," as in "we Germans" can manage and absorb a million or so migrants – averted a much worse humanitarian disaster.
Some of the provincial affiliates of her party – especially in Bavaria – were by no means happy. The Bavarian provincial party, the Christian Social Union, has accepted her decision to run again "with respect but not automatically with euphoria."
As well, a new rightist party called Alternative for Germany has arisen, although it is still fairly small and unlikely to pose a challenge.
Still, no one else other than Ms. Merkel and her party could have so effectively resisted a backlash to the refugee crisis. Last Sunday, one poll said that 55 per cent of Germans want Ms. Merkel to continue as chancellor, and 33 per cent would vote for her party – a solid figure in a political culture that has long expected coalition governments. Another poll disagrees, and the actual election is still far off.
Ms. Merkel has recognized the limits of Germans' comfort level with more and more migrants. She made a less-than-ideal agreement with the Turkish government to return migrants whose qualifications as convention refugees are dubious. Germany is a low-growth country, and it could have taken in more migrants without good claims to refugee status.
But Chancellor Merkel has to face reality. And if she wins re-election yet again in 2017, she will in the end have accomplished much for Germany, Europe and the world.