Merkel on the brink: ‘Tired’ German Chancellor forgets words amid health speculation

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The Chancellor set tongues wagging last year after several instances in which she appeared to be shaking in public, although she has consistently denied any serious underlying health issues. Reports in several German media outlets this week have said the 66-year-old is appearing increasingly tired – with one even going as far as to suggest she was suffering from a “kind of corona paralysis”.

In an article written to coincide with the 15th anniversary of Mrs Merkel being sworn in as Chancellor on November 22, 2005, German magazine Merkur suggested she was now facing “special challenges” in the face of the ongoing pandemic.

Specifically the piece drew attention to the latest of many press conferences Mrs Merkel had given to discuss Germany’s response to the crisis.

During one such event last Wednesday, Mrs Merkel was quizzed about what special restrictions were required when it came to schools to slow the spread of infection.

In response, she mentioned wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing before drying up.

She told reporters: “There’s one thing I’m missing after all these hours.”

An aide then whispered to her: “Hygiene rules”, prompting her to reply: “Yes, that’s right, thank you.”

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A subsequent meeting between federal and state politicians, which included seven hours of gruelling negotiations, also may have take its toll, Merkur speculated.

Unusually, Mrs Merkel had called a 15-minute break at one point, and one insider said at one stage she had “not uttered a word for more than an hour”.

Additionally, during a statement yesterday, Mrs Merkel “looked tired again and got her words tangled up every now and then”, Merkur reported.

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After her speech, she also faced criticism for her coronavirus response from Ralph Brinkhaus, CDU parliamentary group leader, who suggested any easing of restrictions over Christmas was risky.

In a comment piece today, Merkur even speculated that Mrs Merkel was “in a kind of corona paralysis” – although despite being quarantined, there is no suggestion she has actually had the disease.

Speaking after three public shaking bouts last year, Mrs Merkel told reporters: “You can take it firstly that I am aware of the responsibility of my office.

“I behave appropriately as far as my health is concerned.

“Also as a person, I have a major interest in being healthy and I look after my health.”

Nevertheless, the latest reports are likely to intensify speculation about who will replace her as leader when she steps down next year.

Despite not having declared his candidacy, Markus Soder is regarded as the front runner.

Armin Laschet, Prime Minister of North-Rhine-Westphalia, Norbert Roettgen, Leader of the Committee of External Affairs in the Bundestag and Friedrich Merz, Ex-Leader of the CDU in the Bundestag, having voiced their interest.

(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)

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