Two weeks ago we reported that chancellor Angela Merkel was facing humiliation, political defeat in in an election in her home state. Sure enough, she lost by a wide margin, with the anti-immigrant AfD party soaring in the first shock result of the current political cycle. That, however, was only the beginning because as Reuters writes today, still reeling from the state election rout, Angela Merkel's conservatives "are bracing for further losses in the Berlin city vote on Sunday."
Following the CDU's disastrous performance in the election in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Merkel's home state, which pushed Merkel's party into an unprecedented third place by the AfD, her conservative CSU allies in Bavaria have blamed Merkel personally and demanded a migrant cap, which she rejects. Polls show the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) may be able to drop Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) as coalition partners in the capital's assembly.
Meanwhile, with the ruling coalition in shambles as a result of Merkel's widely unpopular immigration policies, the AfD, which has won seats in nine of Germany's 16 states, has soared by successfully playing on immigration concerns, validated most recently on Wednesday night by the violence between locals and refugees in the German town of Bautzen.
Meanwhile, even the locals are pushing back against Merkel: Berlin candidate Georg Pazderski has said: "I favor educating these people (immigrants) but not integrating them. We must prepare them for going back."
Not surprisingly, then, after its humiliation in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the CDU continues to slide. An INSA poll this week put the CDU on 18 percent in Berlin, down more than five points from the 2011 vote and only four points ahead of the AfD. The SPD - which is in coalition with Merkel at the federal level - is expected to remain the biggest party in Berlin and aims to form a coalition with the Greens and radical Left. They are led by printer Michael Mueller, who acknowledges he falls short in the "glamour" stakes compared with his party-loving predecessor Klaus Wowereit who dubbed Berlin "poor but sexy".
Meanwhile Merkel, cheered by modest 2,500 conservative supporters at a recent rally in the leafy western suburb of Lichterfelde on a sunny evening, knows what is at stake, especially as it is only a year unril the next federal election. The chancellor's "open door" policy decision a year ago to open German borders has crushed her popularity and dominated the campaign, boosting support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD)party. What is most surprising is that judging by her actions, she still fails to realize this.
And while she has no obvious rival, Reuters writes that the losses have raised questions about whether she will even run for a fourth term in 2017.
Merkel defended her policy, appealing to Berlin's openness. "Berlin, its whole history, the success of what was West Berlin, its openness has served it well and must be preserved," she said, stressing the humanitarian duty to help war refugees.
Since the fall of the Wall, 27 years ago, Berlin has transformed itself from the front line of the Cold War into a trendy capital, attracting artists and start-up entrepreneurs although it accounts for only 4 percent of the German economy.
However, such nostalgic fallbacks will no longer help Merkel: many CDU voters say they are worried about the crisis which saw about 1 million refugees enter Germany last year. Some 80,000 arrived in Berlin, a city of 3.5 million. Voters are focused on the cost, integration and security.
"Merkel made a mistake letting everyone in. She will pay the price and so will Germany, our children," said Moritz Daul, 48, who will nonetheless vote CDU. He said Merkel's days were numbered but she was the best chancellor candidate for now.
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Merkel's problem was evident at the rally on Wednesday, where up to 30 hecklers booed, whistled and yelled "Merkel must go". One, sporting a German eagle on his T-Shirt and the slogan 'Wir sind das Volk' ('We are the People'), said he would vote AfD.
The slogan was coined by East Germans protesters before the end of Communism and has since been adopted by the anti-Muslim PEGIDA group.
The worst news, however, is if Merkel's ongoing collapse leads to a schism in Germany's ruling coalition. Carsten Koschmieder, political scientist at Berlin's Free University, predicted further damaging splits between the CDU and CSU if voters reject conservatives in Berlin.
"Critics of Merkel will get louder while her supporters in the CDU will blame (CSU leader) Horst Seehofer for using destructive rhetoric," he said.
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Tune in on Sunday for the results of what promises to be another humiliating election for the woman who until recently was the most powerful in all of Europe, and suddenly looks is hanging on to preserve if not her suddenly imperiled political career, then certainly her legacy.