Angela Merkel cannot be written off just yet
The German chancellor has paid a price for her welcoming stand on refugees amid a rise by far-right and conservative parties. But she has skilfully overcome political challenges in the past
Europe’s most powerful politician, German chancellor Angela Merkel, faces another test of her policy on migration tomorrow in elections in Berlin. In recent polls, her ruling CDU party has lost ground to the far-right AfD, the latest two weeks ago when it was beaten into third place in polls in the leader’s home state. The defeats have been due to concerns about Muslim refugees and migrants. But there is no certainty Merkel would lose if she decides to stand for a fourth term next year, nor is the nation setting a trend on the continent; it is merely catching up.
Far-right and conservative parties have been making gains the world over as governments grapple with the threat of Muslim extremism, migration and lacklustre economies. Terrorist attacks and the influx to Europe in the past year of more than 1.6 million asylum-seekers from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and northern Africa have fuelled a social and political backlash and socialist and left-leaning leaders are struggling to shore up support. Migration was in part the reason for Britons’ decision to leave the EU and it has been a feature of US Republican Party presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s campaign. But times have been especially trying for Merkel, whose liberal policies on refugees led to her country taking in a majority.
Merkel has been the CDU’s leader for 16 years and Germany’s chancellor for a decade. She is the most prominent politician in her country and has no obvious successor. Nor, given the strength of the German economy, does she have a rival in the EU. But there is also no denying that her welcoming stand on refugees, reiterated during campaigning in Berlin, has contributed to her lowest approval ratings in five years.
The rise of the far-right has been coupled with a weakening of major parties like the CDU. But while there is growing concern about Muslim migrants, Europe is not about to shut its doors to migration. Nor should Merkel be written off; she has skilfully overcome political challenges in the past.