Storm Warning for Merkel

Storm Warning for Merkel

It is difficult to avoid the impression that the «sexual terror» that took place on New Year in Cologne and a number of other German cities was organised by somebody very clever. Regardless of how much the «terror» was actually «sexual», the whole of Germany reacted to the incident extremely excitedly and the focus of the protests seemed to be directed against Merkel.

In 2015, the barometer of public sentiment for her had already started to indicate «cloudy». This was due to the sanctions against Russia and the turbulent influx of refugees flooding Germany. Merkel decided not to change her policy, however, and by the end of the year the storm clouds were thickening.

On 29 October 2015, the website t-online conducted a large-scale survey of its users’ voting preferences. More than 175,000 of its users took part in the survey, of which 106,000, or 60.5 per cent, expressed support for the new Alternative for Germany (Alternative fur Deutschland – AfD) party, far outstripping the main political heavyweights including Angela Merkel’s CDU party.

Just two months later and the scandal surrounding the «sexual terror» has become the next powerful blow to the Chancellor’s prestige. In the wake of the scandal, on 8 January, the N24 television channel carried out a survey on Teletext with the age-old question: «Who would you vote for if federal elections were held on Sunday?» The survey was answered by 35,000 TV viewers, the vast majority of which – 74.4 per cent – once again voted for the AfD. Just 7.1 per cent voted for the Social Democrats, 6.2 per cent for the CDU and 6.8 per cent for the Left Party.

The news was bound to be shocking: a party not yet three years old was firmly in the lead and the opposition Left Party had overtaken the ruling CDU party.

The popularity of the AfD is no accident. It is positioning itself as the brainchild of Germany’s intellectual elite and is focussing on the issues most relevant to ordinary Germans. It is run by a combination of leading German economists, lawyers, businessmen and journalists and the party’s maxim is: «To restore democratic values, reinstate the state of law and return to economic common sense». The party is calling for an end to European centralisation and the repatriation of legislative powers and budget control to national governments.

The main objective of the Alternative for Germany party is to abandon the policy for saving the euro, review Germany’s debt guarantee policy and return to the Deutschmark. The party is critical of the country’s tax legislation, the energy pricing system, which places a heavy burden on the population, and the lack of incentives to stimulate the country’s birth rate. With regard to the country’s immigration policy, ordinary and undereducated people from other countries should not be accepted into Germany according to the leaders of the AfD and this is in their own interests, since they will be unable to adapt to modern society and will have no chance of finding work. The size of the party is growing rapidly. Since it was founded two years ago, it has increased fivefold and now has 25,000 registered members. In recent months, the AfD and the Pegida movement («Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident») have joined efforts, which could lead to the emergence of a broad anti-government front.

The danger for Merkel is not just growing from the outside, however. An uprising against her policy is flaring up within the CDU itself. In mid-October 2015, 126 CDU functionaries, including 38 Landtag deputies, wrote a so-called Brandbrief (incendiary letter) that criticised her open borders policy, putting an end to the internal unity of this previously united party. The party members’ main demand was for their leader to close Germany’s borders to refugees arriving from «stable» countries. Merkel dismissed the demand, but the letter continues to make its way around the party’s Land organisations, gathering more and more signatures. The signatories include well-known functionaries from the top echelons of the CDU in Berlin and Lower Saxony, European Parliament deputies and others.

The situation with the CDU’s main ally – the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) – is not faring any better.

CSU chairman Horst Seehofer is threatening Angela Merkel with serious political and legal consequences if her open borders policy fails. He is prepared to go far, to the point of breaking up the coalition, and is threatening to withdraw three of his ministers from the cabinet (the ministers for transport, agriculture and development) if the CSU’s demands regarding limiting the influx of refugees to 200,000 per year are not met. And to make sure Merkel knows full well that he is not joking, Seehofer is promising to begin proceedings to check that her policy complies with constitutional requirements. He intends to achieve a significant reduction in the number of refugees as early as the next few weeks.

Everything points to the fact that the political barometer in Germany is showing a «storm warning» for Angela Merkel. Elections are due to take place in five federal states in the coming year and the predictions for these are looking rather bleak for the CDU.

In three of the five federal states – Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Berlin – the influence of the AfD and Pegida is extremely strong and this could ruin the political landscape for the CDU once and for all on the eve of the 2017 federal elections. Especially since preliminary surveys indicate that everything is heading that way. Referring to a survey conducted by Emnid, the German Institute of Pubic Opinion, at its request, the Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported in November 2015 that the majority of German citizens did not want to see Angela Merkel in the post of German Chancellor following the 2017 Bundestag elections: 48 per cent of those questioned voted unequivocally against her re-election. In the current situation, this sounds like a final judgement.

The ongoing and rapidly increasing influence of the Alternative for Germany party and its entry into the foreground of German politics will put an abrupt turnabout of the country within the European Union on the agenda. Without Germany, the EU will become a colossus with feet of clay and a very short shelf life, so someone very clever indeed organised the «sex terror» carried out by migrants against the good people of Germany.