Talk about the last man — or woman — standing: In just a little more than six months, much of the Western world's political landscape has been totally rattled, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the only one remaining.
An image of Merkel greeting French President François Hollande, who is not seeking re-election; Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who is resigning following a resounding rejection of his constitutional reforms over the weekend; then-British Prime Minister David Cameron, who left his post in June after the U.K. voted to leave the European Union; and outgoing President Barack Obama, who will be replaced by President-elect Donald Trump in January, began circulating on social media Sunday.
The customary photo was taken April 25 at the G5 Summit in Hannover, Germany, and was — at the time — fairly inconsequential. But now it speaks volumes about the stunning way the world has changed in such a short period of time.
Renzi, 41, took office in February 2014 and made constitutional reform a key tenet of his premiership. However, nearly 60 percent of the Italian electorate voted against his proposals, which would have concentrated a great sum of the power in the prime minister's office, according to the Guardian:
The changes, in effect, would have neutered the senate and given much more power to Renzi and future prime ministers. Prominent no voices included Mario Monti, the former prime minister and ex-European commissioner, who is hardly an anti-establishment figure.
It is also worth noting that each of the leaders who will not be returning — Renzi, Hollande and Cameron — were major proponents of the European Union. So far, only the U.K. has voted to leave the 28-country union, but waves of populism and nationalism — ideologies generally opposed to the EU — have spread across Europe.
Merkel, who assumed office in November 2005, announced last month that she will seek a fourth term, despite September polling that showed her approval rating falling to the lowest point in five years. Though she has been widely praised by her international counterparts for her open-door policy regarding Muslim refugees, many German voters have pushed back against her progressive approach.
Refugees, who have been largely un-vetted, were allegedly responsible for four attacks that hit southern Germany over the summer. However, Merkel stood her ground.
And Trump, for his part, is already rocking the boat in the United States before Obama leaves office. The president-elect put pressure on the U.S.'s relationship with China last week when he became the first elected American leader to speak to the president of Taiwan since 1979, giving credence to the leadership of a country that China does not recognize as independent.
In addition, French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, an anti-EU politician who leads the right-wing National Front Party, said last month that, should she win the presidency, a partnership among her, Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin "would be good for world peace."
Hollande, who is disliked by nearly 90 percent of the French electorate, determined not to run for re-election in hopes of giving the ruling Socialist Party a chance to win "against conservatism and extremism." He is the first incumbent since World War II to not run for re-election.