In roughly four months, the German national election will occur, and the now likely scenario is that the CDU will win....maybe by three points....maybe by nine points. So this essay goes to the details of what happens in the days and weeks after that election.
1. The coalition government will be limited to two options: (A) the CDU and SPD or (B) the CDU, FDP, and Greens. The general feeling is that Merkel would really like for the FDP/Green angle to work. This would require both to win enough to form the 50-percent union. Both will negotiate to a serious degree, and want more cabinet posts than you'd want to share. I think some members of the CDU and especially the CSU....will say that this degree of cabinet post sharing is crazy.
2. Both the Interior Minister and Finance Minister will be retiring. Their positions will be open to new blood. I expect Julie Glockner (from the Pfalz) to be promoted up to the national level and likely to end up somewhere on the minister level. Glockner is the odds-on favorite to replace Merkel in the future. The other likely player to be brought into Berlin? The Saarland head of the CDU.....Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. These are two women are likely to succeed Merkel.
3. Who ends up as vice-chancellor? The Greens and FDP will flip some coin and one gets the vice-job and the other the foreign minister or head of the treasury job.
4. Shortly after this election will come the focus of Merkel and the cabinet for the next twelve months....attempting to get the EU and the UK to some end of the BREXIT episode. One shouldn't expect much, and the news media spin will leave one wondering who screwed up the most.
5. Merkel? It's the final tour of the Merkel-machine.
6. The wildcard in this whole period after September is the comeback kid from the CSU....Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg. If the media gives him a free pass and doesn't challenge his re-entry into politics, I can see him easily ready in 2021 to be the lead candidate replacing Merkel.
7. This relationship of Macron to Merkel will prove to the most entertainment that you can get for the next two to three years. I don't think either will be happy with the performance of the other.
8. Finally, SPD's Schulz. I think if the SPD is not the coalition partner....then Schulz is on a short list to retire by spring of 2018. The SPD will need some kind of renovation or rebuilding effort to occur.