Raising the spectre of Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is battling accusations he slept with an underage prostitute, Habermas this week launched a blistering attack on the German political scene and what he considers the “pitiful state” of European unification.
“One can no longer see the point of it; whether it actually is about anything more than the next election result,” Habermas wrote of Merkel's programme in an opinion piece published by daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.
This has shown itself particularly in Merkel's initial support for former Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, he wrote. Despite serious allegations that Guttenberg was guilty of plagiarism, Merkel had wanted to keep him in her government because he was popular.
“She has, with cool calculation, cashed in the constitutional idea of public office for a few pieces of silver that she hasn't even been able to pocket at the ballot box.”
Habermas went on to write that the incident had “Berlusconized the political culture of the country.”
Habermas broadened his attack, in flame-throwing rhetorical style, to German politics generally, saying elected representatives were acting wholly according to opinion polls and election cycles.
Politicians were following “shamelessly the playbook of a poll-driven pragmatism of power.”
People's perception of this trend has led to a new willingness to protest, as seen in the Stuttgart 21 demonstrations.
European unity was one victim of this loss of purpose among the political elite, he wrote. A strengthening of the European parliament in Strasbourg was needed, yet politicians were shrinking from such fundamental change.
“The European unification process, which has always been carried out above the heads of the people, is now at a dead-end,” he wrote, adding that the European Union was now in a “pitiful state.”
Under “a Eurosceptic like Merkel,” Germany had laid a claim to European leadership while instead pursuing national interests.
“The prioritization of national considerations has never before been so naked in appearance as in the robust opposition of a chancellor who ... for weeks blocked European help for Greece and the rescue fund for the euro.”