Germany’s Merkel condemns racist ‘murder’ of George Floyd
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Germany’s Merkel condemns racist ‘murder’ of George Floyd

‘Society in the United States is very polarized,’ chancellor says, criticizing Trump’s ‘controversial’ political style; dismisses talk she might seek 5th term

German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of a televised interview at the hauptstadtstudio (Capital city studio) of public broadcaster ARD in Berlin, June 4, 2020. (John MacDougall/Pool via AP)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of a televised interview at the hauptstadtstudio (Capital city studio) of public broadcaster ARD in Berlin, June 4, 2020. (John MacDougall/Pool via AP)

BERLIN, Germany — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday condemned the death in US police custody of George Floyd as “murder,” saying that “racism is something terrible.”

“This murder of George Floyd is very terrible. Racism is something terrible. Society in the United States is very polarized,” she told national broadcaster ZDF in an interview.

Asked about US President Donald Trump’s role in the unrest sweeping the country, Merkel said while she tries “to bring people together, to seek reconciliation,” the US leader’s “political style is a very controversial one.”

Merkel has been a pointed critic of Trump’s stance, including on his go-it-alone style that sidelines international cooperation.

In a striking message to Trump after his election victory in 2016, Merkel had tied her pledge of close ties to democratic values.

Any “close cooperation” must be on the basis of the “values of democracy, freedom, respect for the rule of law and human dignity, regardless of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political belief,” she said at the time.

Marchers at the front of the interfaith demonstration in memory of George Floyd and protesting systemic racism in Chicago on June 2, 2020. (Courtesy of Ari Hart/ via JTA)

Also during her interview Thursday, Merkel firmly rejected suggestions that she might seek a fifth term at the helm or is reconsidering a pledge to leave politics when her current government leaves office.

Merkel’s center-right Union bloc has seen its poll ratings climb since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, benefiting from a well-regarded response to the public health crisis. Germany has escaped the high death rates seen elsewhere in Europe while avoiding the severe lockdowns of many other countries.

Merkel’s calm leadership also has won her applause after two years in which her governing coalition had been marred by squabbling.

Last month, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer — a conservative ally who has clashed with Merkel in the past over migration policy — said he had heard more frequent talk recently of a fifth term for the chancellor.

Merkel dismissed such talk during the interview. Asked if she would consider running again, she replied: “No, no. Really not.”

Pressed as to whether her decision stands, she said: “Very firmly.”

The 65-year-old Merkel, who became chancellor in 2005, announced in October 2018 that she wouldn’t seek another term. But she did say she planned to serve out her current term, which is due to end late next year.

It remains unclear who will seek to replace Merkel as chancellor. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who succeeded Markel as leader of the Christian Democratic Union party in late 2018 but struggled to impose her authority, announced earlier this year that she wouldn’t run for chancellor and would relinquish the party leadership.

A special convention set for April to choose a successor had to be canceled because of the COVID-19 crisis. A regular party convention in December is now expected to make the choice, with the two parties that make up the Union bloc thrashing out later who will run for chancellor.

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