Morning Briefing

Merkel's Magic

The plot is thickening in the drama around Germany’s right-wing populist party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD). Its current leader, Frauke Petry, announced yesterday that she will step down from her position ahead of the German elections in September. In a video message, Petry decried the power politics, intrigue and smear campaigns that she has been subjected to – conveniently forgetting that she employed the same exact means in her 2015 putsch against party founder Bernd Lucke. Revolutions devour their children, we used to say. In the case of the AfD, they devour their grandchildren as well.

In contrast, things are looking rosy again for German Chancellor Angela Merkel. With hardly any campaigning of her own, she is rising in the polls again, while her challenger, Martin Schulz of the Social Democratic Party, is slipping. The Greens are still going nowhere in a hurry. And the Alternative for Germany – well, it may offer tragicomedy but certainly no serious “alternative.”

The only candidate making real headway is Christian Lindner of the Free Democrats, Germany’s pro-business party. He has positioned himself not as an opponent but rather a potential partner of Angela Merkel. If Lindner and Merkel both registered on the dating site Tinder, its algorithm would hope to make a match between the pair. After all, both are political pragmatists and find power erotic. Swipe right for a coalition.

On Sunday, the French will kick off their presidential election with the first of two rounds of voting. The biggest loser is already clear: Current president François Hollande, who has failed to lower unemployment and the national debt, and is so unpopular that he’s not even running again. Some 80 percent of French voters consider him a failure. Even his nightly moped excursions through Paris to see his lover didn’t make him more interesting to the French.

Apropos of self-destructive tendencies: Carsten Kengeter of German stockmarket operator Deutsche Börse has decided he wants to stay boss. Kengeter appeared contrite during a recent panel discussion with Handelsblatt, admitting to political naiveté and poor communication during the failed merger attempt with the London Stock Exchange. That flop has put the CEO on the defensive and resulted in a public investigation into suspected insider trading. But Kengeter – a competitive skiier and mountain marathon runner – isn’t giving up. Athletes know you’ve only lost once you stop fighting.

Controlling and cashing out aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, as a Handelsblatt study has found. The average supervisory board chairman of a DAX company earns €359,000, nearly 50 percent more than a decade ago. The reason for these super-sized salaries? Bonuses are being replaced by fixed compensation, on the theory that supervisors have to be paid well even after a bad year. This is precisely the rationale that has proven so damaging to the business elite, who otherwise place so much value on performance-oriented pay. Perhaps they should take a page from their own book.

Image of the Day

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Two models wearing iris and poppy dresses by award-winning New Zealand artist Jenny Gillies attend the opening of the Harrogate Spring Flower Show in England. Source: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
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