After the recent surge in terrorist attacks on US soils conducted by ISIS-affiliated refugees following Chancellor Merkel's "Open Door" policy, we expected that popular support for Merkel would once again drop in the polls, but not even we expected such a dramatic move.
According to a just released ARG polls, popular support for the Chancellor has plunged by a whopping 12 points, with her approval rating crashing to just47%, and almost two-thirds of Germans unhappy with her refugee policy. This marked her second-lowest score since she was re-elected in 2013. In April last year, before the migrant crisis erupted she enjoyed backing of 75 percent. Meanwhile, approval for her "ally", who in recent weeks has voiced stark disagreement with the Chancellor over the future of German immigration policy, soared: support for Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer, rose 11 points to 44%.
Seehofer, who heads the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s CDU, said he may break with party unity and run a separate campaign in next year’s German election. He’s demanding a cap on the number of refugees allowed into the country after last year’s number surpassed 1 million.
Merkel's campaign was quick to engage in damage control.
“We won’t allow terrorists and violent criminals to change our European-western way of life,” Peter Altmaier, Merkel’s chief of staff, said in an interview with Berliner Zeitung published Friday. “This includes the protection of human dignity and help for people in need. We need to check security measures but the fact remains that Germany will also fulfill its humanitarian obligations in the future." Curiously, that does not include rolling out the army during "extreme situations", as many in Merkel's cabinet have suggested for future terrorist attacks.
“The Chancellor’s policy has led to a dramatic decrease in the number of refugees and the course must therefore be maintained,” Elmar Brok, a lawmaker in the European Parliament from Merkel’s CDU, told Bild. “It is a pity that her success apparently has gone unnoticed by the public.”
Others disagreed: “Seehofer expresses exactly what the people feel,” Peter Ramsauer, a former government minister and senior lawmaker from the Christian Social Union, told Bild. “Many people see it as a provocation that the chancellor continues on her ‘we can do this’ path.”
The collapse in Merkel's approval comes after Germany was hit last month by a terrorism blitz that included a shooting spree, an ax attack, a suicide bombing and a machete assault that left 13 people dead. Three of the four assaults involved refugees. Merkel said last week that she remains convinced of the motto she adopted in 2015 - “we will do this” - even as she, ironically, accused the attackers of mocking the country that took them in.
“More and more people are worried whether, given the large immigration numbers, we can actually manage,” Wolfgang Bosbach, a lawmaker from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and former chairman of parliament’s interior committee, told Bild Zeitung.
Bloomberg adds that support for Merkel’s CDU-led bloc held at 34 percent, while backing for her Social Democratic Party coalition partner at 22 percent, was also unchanged. The Greens had 13 percent support in the monthly poll, with 12 percent for the anti-immigration AfD party, 9 percent for the Left Party and 5 percent for the Free Democrats. Infratest polled 1,003 voting-age individuals on Aug. 1-2. The margin of error was 3.1 percentage points.
The good news for Merkel is that for now the refugee onslaught has trickled to a crawl, as a result of the March "cash for refugees" deal with Erdogan, which gives the Turkish dictator complete leverage over Merkel, and Europe.
Should the deal unwind, however, as Erdogan has threatened he will do unless Turkey is granted visa-free travel to Europe, watch as Merkel's approval rating takes another big step lower.
The next test of support for Merkel will be state elections in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern on Sept. 4, where her Christian Democrats (CDU) are expected to face a strong challenge from the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Paradoxically, a separate poll this week showed that most Germans do not blame the government's liberal refugee policy for the two Islamist attacks last month.