It's Election Season in Germany. No Charisma, Please! 德國大選將屆 謝絕領袖魅力
The most popular politician who would like to be chancellor isn't on the ballot. The leading candidate is so boring people compare him to a machine. Instead of "Yes, We Can!" voters are being fired up with promises of "Stability."
The campaign to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel after 16 years of her dominating German and European politics is the tightest in Germany since 2005, and it just got tighter. The Social Democrats, written off as recently as a month ago, have overtaken Merkel's conservatives for the first time in years.
But the campaign has also revealed a charisma vacuum that is at once typical of postwar German politics and exceptional for just how bland Merkel's two most likely successors are. No party is polling more than 25%, and for much of the race the candidate the public has preferred was none of the above.
Whoever wins, however, will have the job of shepherding the continent's largest economy, making that person one of Europe's most important leaders, which has left some observers wondering if the charisma deficit will extend to a leadership deficit as well.
While the election outcome may be exciting, the two leading candidates are anything but.
Less than a month before the vote, the field is being led by two male suit-wearing career politicians — one balding, one bespectacled, both over 60 — who represent the parties that have governed the country jointly for the better part of two decades.
There is Armin Laschet, the governor of the western state of North-Rhine Westphalia, who is running for Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats. And then there is Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat who is Merkel's finance minister and vice chancellor.
The candidate of change, Annalena Baerbock, the 40-year-old co-leader of the Greens, has a bold reform agenda and plenty of verve — and has been lagging in the polls after a brief surge before the summer.
It's a nail-biter, German-style: Who can most effectively channel stability and continuity? Or put another way: Who can channel Merkel?
For now it seems to be Scholz — a man Germans have long known as the "Scholz-o-mat" or the "Scholz machine" — a technocrat and veteran politician who can seem almost robotically on message. Where others have slipped up in the campaign, he has avoided mistakes, mostly by saying very little.
Myanmar's Monks, Leaders of Past Protests, Are Divided Over the Coup 緬甸僧侶曾領導抗爭 今對政變意見分歧
Day after day, despite a raging pandemic and the threat of snipers' bullets, a small band of Buddhist monks in burgundy robes gathers in the city of Mandalay in Myanmar. Their acts of dissent last only a few minutes, hasty candlelight vigils or flash-mob protests in the shadow of a monastery with gilded eaves.
The clerics' demand is lofty: men in uniform, men who protest a bit too loudly that they are pious Buddhists, must exit politics. The military has dominated Myanmar for the better part of 60 years, most recently by staging a coup against an elected government and killing more than a thousand people for daring to oppose its power grab.
"In the future, there should be no dictatorship at all," read one sign held aloft by a monk Monday.
In an overwhelmingly Buddhist nation where monks are seen as the supreme moral authority, the political chaos since the Feb. 1 coup has laid bare deep divisions within Myanmar's clergy. While a minority of monks have openly joined the protest movement, and hundreds have been imprisoned for it, clerics have not taken the leadership role that they were known for in past bouts of resistance to the military. Some prominent monks have even given the generals their blessing.
This split in the monastic community, Buddhist clerics say, is partly due to the military's assiduous courting of influential monks, luring them with donations and promises that soldiers, more than civilian leaders, are the true defenders of the faith. Harder-edged tactics have also been used to discourage monks from protesting, as armed security forces occupy monasteries — potential centers for resistance — and order clerics to return home, citing the pandemic.
The relative absence of monks from the protests, particularly in the first weeks after the coup, has not matched the broader mood in Myanmar. Millions marched in the streets after Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the army chief, ordered the jailing of elected leaders. Even today, as security forces shoot protesters on sight and the coronavirus rips through the country, pockets of democratic rebellion have endured.
For centuries, Myanmar's monks have taken bold political stands, from hunger strikes demanding independence from Britain to street protests against the army's rule in 2007. And although the government-run national clerical council mostly capitulated to the new order imposed in February, some monks have defied it.