“The beginning of the end of Angela Merkel as chancellor,” read one headline. “Imagining a post-Merkel Europe,” read another. They might have been written yesterday, before Merkel struck a last-minute migration deal to save her government from possible collapse. But they were published back in November—the last time German Chancellor Angela Merkel faced her own downfall, and then escaped it.
At issue then was the 13-year chancellor’s struggle to form a new government following the country’s September general election, in which the vote fractured among numerous political parties, making it nearly impossible to form a coalition. (The outcome ultimately left Merkel in charge, but drastically weakened—the German newspaper Bild dubbed it a “nightmare victory.”) This time, the crisis revolved around a rogue Cabinet minister, coalition infighting, and a fierce debate about how Germany—and the rest of Europe—should deal with asylum-seekers at its border.
And once again, Merkel has proven herself an uncanny crisis-weathering survivor. The chancellor reached a last-ditch agreement Monday night after her own interior minister, Horst Seehofer, staged an insurrection over migration that threatened to bring her government down. The deal marks the tentative end to a weeks-long dispute that began last month, when Seehofer began threatening, in defiance of Merkel, to start turning asylum-seekers who have first sought asylum in another EU country away at the German border. Seehofer also happens to be the leader of the CSU, a center-right party in the German state of Bavaria which has been allied with what’s now Merkel’s conservative party since 1949. The two parties have endured spats like this for decades and have always ultimately decided to stick together, though this one may have been a new low in the relationship.