Political power and privileges: the Germans,

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Gilles Yabi, you say that Angela Merkel’s resignation after sixteen years in power will be regretted in a number of presidential palaces in Africa …

Yes indeed. Several communications advisers to heads of state who break records for life on power on the continent loved to give examples of Angela Merkel and her four terms as head of the German government to explain that there was no connection between a country’s democratic character and how long as heads of state has in power.

They omitted several important facts and major differences between Germany and their respective countries. First, among the top five African presidents in terms of life expectancy, the total number of years in power is between 42 years for Teodoro Obiang Nguema in Equatorial Guinea, more than twice as many as Merkel, and Isaias Afewerki, from Eritrea, who is 28 years old. , past Paul Biya, 38, and Denis Sassou Nguesso, 36. Even next on the list, Djiboutian Ismaïl Omar Guelleh and Rwandan Paul Kagame have ruled their respective countries for more than twenty years. Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé came to power in 2005 as Angela Merkel, but he has not announced any imminent resignation at all …

You also say that a chancellor’s real powers in the German political system are much more limited than those of most African presidents.

Absolutely. Angela Merkel led a federal government, in a country where there is also a president with secure honors. The German regions, the Länder, sixteen in number, are real federated states, each with a constitution, a government, a parliament and major areas of competence. Suffice it to say that the Chancellor must negotiate permanently with the prime ministers of the Länder before making important decisions for the country.

Another equally important data, the German political system is parliamentary and the still uncertain end of the recent elections has just reminded us. It is the parties and alliances between the parties that count and determine the parliamentary majority from which the head of the federal government comes. During Merkel’s sixteen years in power, she had to agree with the other leaders of her party, but also with the allied parties and the major political forces in each of the states. We are far from the hyperpower of many remote African presidents.

You believe that it is necessary to address the issue of the perception of power in African societies and to choose between the choice of a presidential function accompanied by privileges of the monarchical type and of measurement and austerity in the exercise of power …

Absolutely. Angela Merkel impressed with her seclusion from the privilege, her way of living almost like an ordinary upper-class citizen of Germany with a comfortable but not extraordinary life. So, of course, not all German chancellors have gone as far as she is in this austerity. But there are, in Germany as in the Scandinavian countries, rooted in the fact that the greatness of a nation does not depend on pomp, the endless presidential processions that disrupt city traffic for hours, dozens of officials come and go at every departure and return from a presidential trip or almost unlimited funds available to the highest political authorities.

No one claims that the simplicity of Angela Merkel’s form of government has affected Germany’s status in Europe and in the world. In Africa, many criticize poor governance, concentration of power, constitutional tricks, but continue to believe that we are not Germans or Swedes to choose austerity in the exercise of political power. But on the continent, whether it is Botswana in the south or Cape Verde in the west, there are examples of the exercise of power with moderation, decency and concern for the economy of public resources. They are neither Germans nor Swedes.

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