Germany’s armed forces wore dreadlocks during an emotional send-off Tuesday for the nation’s outgoing Chancellor, who is widely expected to run for a fourth term in September’s elections.
Angela Merkel’s farewell party was attended by heads of state and government, politicians, family and friends. Germans are commonly cheered and honored by their military with a colorful military parade or appearance, and no less a figure than Queen Elizabeth II is buried with the country’s state flag in her churchyard.
Anchored to a sombre high-rise that was the center of her weekly government work, Merkel was shielded from the sun and offered flowers by soldiers with a walking stick. She wore a simple brown sweater and a simple black cap.
Since leaving office last week after 12 years, the chancellor has offered few clues about her plans for the future, but that did not stop the endless speculation that she will run again. Among the people who addressed the celebration were Merkel’s family, top party officials and some of her most significant former opponents.
These included former colleague Horst Seehofer, head of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union Party, who called her “the most courageous” chancellor in German history and urged her to seek another term.
One of Merkel’s junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats, will choose a new leader in September, and Martin Schulz, who stepped down as party leader last year, urged her to run again.
Salzburg, the Bavarian capital where the event was held, is one of Europe’s most conservative and ethnically homogenous regions, where the audience reacted with tepid applause.
Since assuming office in 2005, Merkel has defined herself as a pragmatist who straddled the argument about the role of the country in Europe in a highly charged world.
She is deeply beloved by Germans, including the anti-immigrant right-wing Alternative for Germany, whose leaders declined invitations to attend Tuesday’s event.
In an emotional speech, a black-robed Bishop Johannes Gutschke told the audience in Salzburg’s Frauenkirche that Merkel “exhibited the wisdom to handle a complex and challenging world.”
“This is how we can achieve our common goal, which is building a German home and a trans-Atlantic partnership that alone can heal the wounds of centuries and prevent our unity from falling apart,” he said.
Hundreds of party members paid tribute to Merkel at a separate event Monday night, calling her “the most beautiful chancellor.”
Copyright Associated Press