Merkel’s Approval Rating Plunges Following Attacks in Germanyby
Chancellor’s support drops 12 percentage points in new poll
CSU lawmaker calls her ‘we can do this’ mantra a provocation
Senior members of Angela Merkel’s party defended her refugee policy after the German chancellor’s approval rating plunged in the wake of a series of attacks that unsettled the public and sparked political opposition.
Voter support for Merkel slumped 12 percentage points to 47 percent in July, the second-lowest of her third term that started in 2013, according to an Infratest dimap poll this week for ARD public television. Two-thirds said they oppose the chancellor’s handling of the refugee crisis. Support for Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer, one of her biggest political adversaries during the refugee crisis, rose 11 points to 44 percent.
“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.”
Germany was hit last month by 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; none of the attackers arrived in the most recent influx over the last year. Merkel said last week that she remains convinced of the motto she adopted in 2015 -- “we will do this” -- even as she 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.
Support for Merkel’s CDU-led bloc held at 34 percent, with backing for her Social Democratic Party coalition partner at 22 percent, 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.
While Germany has avoided large-scale terrorist attacks of the kind that have rocked France, Belgium, the U.S. and Turkey in recent months, Merkel warned that the country isn’t immune to similar onslaughts. Arrivals of new refugees in Germany have fallen significantly this year, in part due to a European Union agreement with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants.
“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.”
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.
“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.”