German Chancellor Angela Merkel could be forced to hand over power sooner than planned over health fears after her third episode of public shaking in a month, party sources have said.
Concern for Merkel, 64, has heightened again after she began trembling as she stood for national anthems with Finland’s prime minister in Berlin on Wednesday.
The Christian Democrat leader has promised to stand down by the 2021 election but the health scares are firing up a debate among party colleagues over whether she should go before then.
Merkel has insisted she is fine but her office has given no explanation for the repeated shaking.
‘The tremors are fuelling the CDU internal debate about whether the schedule agreed between Merkel and Kramp-Karrenbauer on not changing the guard until 2021 can hold,’ one member of the CDU executive committee said.
Last year Merkel stood down as party chair in favour of Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, paving the way for the new leader to succeed her as Chancellor in 2021.
Kramp-Karrenbauer supporters are now said to be fuelling the debate about an early succession.
Her camp also feels her current job does not give her enough of a platform, a CDU insider said.
However, Kramp-Karrenbauer – often known by her initials AKK – has seen her popularity slide after a series of gaffes which have raised doubts over her suitability to succeed Merkel.
In May, she faced a backlash after appearing to call for online censorship in response to a viral YouTube video which took aim at her party.
She also drew sharp criticism from her Social Democrat coalition partners for poking fun at transgender people in a light-hearted carnival speech.
In February, she was ridiculed for addressing a high-profile meeting of her conservative CDU party by calling them Social Democrats.
Sources in Merkel’s conservative camp said neither she nor Kramp-Karrenbauer wanted to change the schedule.
An early resignation could prompt new elections.
Merkel, who has no history of serious health issues and has held the job of Chancellor since 2005, is also facing growing pressure to be more open about her ailment.
Manfred Guellner, head of pollster Forsa, said Merkel should be more transparent.
‘Merkel is the guarantee of stability and many people want her to serve a full term. To talk about “working it through” is not really sufficient. It looks quite dramatic. She really has to say what the matter is,’ he said.
In her latest scare on Wednesday, she could be seen trembling as she stood alongside Finnish leader Antti Rinne while they listened to the national anthems.
As the camera panned, the 64-year-old could be seen clasping her hands momentarily, before she dropped them to her side and her entire body appeared to shake uncontrollably back and forth.
Addressing the media later in the day, Merkel said she was ‘working through’ her bouts of shaking that first struck in mid-June, though she insisted she was fine and that ‘just as it happened one day, so it will disappear.’.
‘This process is clearly not finished yet but there is progress and I must live with this for a while but I am very well and you don’t need to worry about me,’ she added.
‘I am convinced that I am quite capable (of doing my job).’
A day later, she broke with convention and sat down during a similar ceremony with Denmark’s prime minister.
The first fears were sparked on June 18 when Merkel was seen shaking while meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy – which she attributed to being dehydrated.
On June 27, the 64-year-old Chancellor’s arms and body could be seen noticeably trembling as she stood behind Germany’s figurehead president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
For around two minutes, she continually folded her arms in an apparent attempt to stop her hands and body from violently juddering.
It came just hours before she was due to board the plane to the G20 summit in Japan, sparking new questions about her health.
At the time, a German government spokesman said Merkel would not cancel any upcoming appointments – saying ‘The chancellor is well.’
The repeated incidents have prompted speculation over what is causing her to shake, with suggestions ranging from an over-active thyroid to low blood sugar.
Most doctors, however, are in agreement that the shaking is unlikely to have been caused by dehydration or Parkinson’s disease.
Peter Garrard, a professor of neurology at St George’s, University of London, told MailOnline during the German Chancellor’s first shaking episode that her symptoms ‘seemed to fit’ those of orthostatic tremor – a rare neurological condition that used to be known as ‘Shaky Legs Syndrome’.
On June 27, after seeing the second footage of her trembling as she met Germany’s President, Professor Garrard said orthostatic tremor is still the most likely cause.
Orthostatic tremors often cause people to tremble in one or more parts of their body. This is often worse when they stand, with many sufferers having tell-tale ‘shaky’ or ‘frozen’ legs. The problem tends to resolve when they walk, sit or lie down.
Stress can make the shakes worse, which then becomes a vicious cycle as tremors cause the patient to become increasingly uneasy.
The tremors, which can last just a few seconds, can also come on for no apparent reason. The rare disorder tends to strike people in their sixties.
Over time, the condition can cause fatigue, pain and immobility. While there is no cure, drugs like Clonazepam can ease the symptoms.
Walking aids like scooters, sticks or even wheelchairs in extreme cases, may eventually be required. However, only Merkel’s arms and hands have been seen shaking to date.
GP Dr Sarah Brewer, a medical director of Healthspan, told MailOnline the shakes could have been brought on by anything from an over-active thyroid to side effects from medication.
One practitioner, Dr Mike Fitzpatrick, said in the wake of her meeting with Zelenskiy that the shaking may be a symptom of an infection.
‘Honestly, to me it looks like an infection,’ Fitzpatrick said. ‘Sometimes when you have an infection, you’ll find the body will shake.’
‘I read that there’d been some mention of dehydration but I don’t think it looks like that to me. You wouldn’t normally get shaking like that with dehydration,’ he added.
‘If you were starving, maybe, but thirst wouldn’t do that to you.’
Merkel has loomed large on the European stage since 2005, helping guide the EU through the euro zone crisis and opening Germany’s doors to migrants fleeing war in the Middle East in 2015 – a move that still divides the bloc and Germany.
She began her stage-managed gradual exit from politics in October, when she said her fourth term as chancellor would be her last and that she would not seek re-election in 2021, when the next federal election is due.
Merkel is well known for enjoying an active and healthy lifestyle – with hillwalking being one of her favourite pursuits.
She is also renowned for her work ethic and has a reputation for outlasting other leaders at European Union summits with her ability to focus on the details of complex discussions deep into the night.
In the past, she has joked that she is a ‘sleep camel’ who can go days with just a few hours of sleep as long as she gets a full night of shut-eye at the weekend.