Balance of Power: Merkel Resurgent

Merkel Buoyed by German Local Vote

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Eight months ago, Angela Merkel looked to be in deep trouble. Her government looked tired, anti-immigrant populists were soaring in the polls, and some questioned whether she'd even seek a fourth term.

Few would now bet against her winning in September.

The Christian Democrat party yesterday crushed her Social Democratic opponents in the crucial state of North Rhine-Westphalia, capping a string of regional victories for Merkel. It was a disaster for Martin Schulz, the SPD leader who will challenge Merkel in four months.

The victory is a sign that voters are looking beyond her decision to allow a stream of refugees into Germany, a move that Donald Trump called “catastrophic.”

Merkel's renaissance may now embolden her ahead of a series of potentially difficult meetings with Trump at the G-7 and G-20 summits. For example, she is showing little patience with his insistence that Germany ramp up NATO spending. And it's bad news for Russia's Vladimir Putin, who Merkel aides say is actively trying to oust her.

With the German chancellor set to meet new French President Emmanuel Macron in Berlin today, the European Union is suddenly looking a lot stronger.

Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader, center, waves to the crowd during a campaign event in Aachen, Germany, on Saturday, May 13, 2017. Germanys most populous state goes to the polls on Sunday in the biggest and final dry run for Merkel and her Social Democratic opponent before the national election in September. Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, waves during a campaign event in Aachen on May 13, 2017.

Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

Global Headlines

Cyber attacks slow for now | The first wave of a global cyber-attack appeared to have been partly contained after claiming victims all over the world since Friday. Russia, India and Europe are among those worst affected so far. More than 200,000 computers in at least 150 countries have been infected, according to Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency. Still, Britain's main cyber security authority said new cases of so-called ransomware are possible “at a significant scale.”

Democrats call bluff on “tapes” | Democrats, and at least one Republican, are calling on Trump to hand over any recordings he may hold of conversations with fired FBI director James Comey. "You can't be cute about tapes,'' Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told NBC yesterday. Also, look for a clash over the appointment of a new FBI director. Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer is warning that Democrats may try to block a vote until a special prosecutor is named to probe Russia ties. 

Manafort faces new investigation | New York State has opened a probe into whether the real-estate dealings of Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, broke state laws. The Manhattan district attorney is looking into Manafort, whose name has also reportedly come up in a federal investigation of Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. His spokesman says investigation leaks could be a crime.

Kim's missile program shows signs of progress | Kim Jong Un's regime boasted that the missile it fired on Sunday could carry a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead” over long distances, and vowed to conduct more tests. Analysts agreed that it showed progress toward his goal of eventually developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit North America.

Day one for President Macron | The most eagerly-awaited decision of Macron's first full day in office will be his pick for prime minister. The decision will show what sort of policy direction he plans to take and whether he'll seek allies on the right or left of French politics. After that, he travels to Berlin to meet Merkel.

Xi clears the air | Beijing's notorious pollution has evaporated as China's state machinery snaps into action to make Xi Jinping look good as he promotes his signature $500 billion Belt and Road Initiative.  Officials often engineer brilliant blue skies for high-profile events by shuttering factories and taking cars off roads, and this summit is even more important for Xi ahead of a leadership shuffle this year.

And finally... Sweden is showing the world what a cashless future might look like. Long a pioneer of new technology -- remember those brick-like Ericsson mobile phones? -- the country is moving quickly to a world without notes and coins. As our Stockholm bureau explains, most of the country’s bank branches have stopped handling cash. Some shops and museums now only accept plastic and and even the capital's homeless have started accepting cards. 

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