July 13, 2019 / 1:36 PM / 4 months ago

Merkel's health is a private matter, Germans say after shaking bouts

BERLIN (Reuters) - Most Germans believe Angela Merkel’s health is a private matter, a poll showed on Saturday, after the chancellor suffered the latest in a series of shaking episodes this week that have raised questions about whether she should give an explanation.

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel walks past the honour guard as she receives Finland's new Social Democrat Prime Minister Antti Rinne with military honours at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, July 10, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Merkel, who turns 65 next week, shook visibly at a welcoming ceremony for Finland’s prime minister on Wednesday - the third such episode in as many weeks. On Thursday, she broke with protocol and sat at a similar welcome for Denmark’s premier.

The episodes have concerned many Germans and fired up a debate among some of the chancellor’s Christian Democrats about whether she should pass power to her protege sooner than a planned handover in 2021.

Yet the survey of 4,495 representative voters, which pollster Civey conducted on Thursday and Friday for the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper, showed a majority - 59% - believed Merkel’s health was her own business.

The voters were asked: “In your view, should Angela Merkel provide detailed public information about her state of health, or is this her private concern?” Just 34% favored her health details being published, with 7% undecided.

The chancellor, who has no history of serious health issues, insisted “I am fine” on Wednesday, after trembling at the ceremony to receive Finland’s premier, and said she was “working through” a bout of tremors that first occurred in mid-June.

But she has declined to give any details about her health.

Merkel is famously private, only rarely making public appearances with her husband. This is in stark contrast to her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder - who faced questions in office about his marriage and whether he dyed his hair.

Merkel has led Germany since 2005, making her the longest-serving political leader of a major Western democracy. Now serving her fourth term in office, she does not plan to stand again at the next federal election, due in 2021.

Merkel decided to seek a fourth term only after long reflection, and said in November 2016 she was seeking to stay on “if health allows”. In 1998, she was quoted as saying: “I don’t want to be a half-dead wreck when I leave politics.”

Leading the European Union’s largest economy, Merkel is renowned for her work ethic and has a reputation for outlasting other leaders at EU summits with her ability to focus on the details of complex discussions deep into the night.

In the United States, portions of the results of the president’s annual medical examination are traditionally made public, but in Germany, political leaders are generally expected to enjoy more privacy around their health.

Editing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian

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