Merkel Fails to Translate Drop in Refugees Into Greater Backing

  • Country expecting 250,000-300,000 asylum seekers in 2016
  • Half of Germans don’t want Merkel to serve a fourth term

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is failing to translate a significant drop in new refugee arrivals into greater backing from the general public.

The head of the agency responsible for asylum seekers, Frank-Juergen Weise, told Bild am Sonntag that he expects 250,000-300,000 refugees to arrive this year, well below last year’s 1 million. Nonetheless, a poll released Sunday by the newspaper showed 50 percent of voters don’t want Merkel to serve a fourth term, up from 48 percent last November at the height of the crisis. According to the Emnid poll conducted on Aug. 25, 42 percent are in favor.

A spate of violent attacks in Germany in July, including two by asylum seekers, that left 13 people dead unsettled the public and sparked renewed criticism of Merkel’s migration policies, including from some within her own Christian Democratic Union. Merkel’s personal approval rating slumped 12 percentage points to 47 percent in an Infratest poll published Aug. 5, though her party still leads in all national surveys.

With national elections just over a year away, Merkel has yet to declare whether she will run again for another four-year term as chancellor. Her next electoral challenges come in September, when two German states hold regional votes. The northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where Merkel has her electoral district, goes to the polls next Sunday. Berlin, which is a city state, votes Sept. 18.

Merkel may end up delaying an announcement of whether she’ll run again until early 2017, Der Spiegel reported on Saturday, citing CDU sources. The chancellor had planned to make her announcement at her party’s convention in December but is considering waiting because of a conflict with Bavarian Prime Minister Horst Seehofer, who leads his state’s sister party to her CDU.

Seehoher, who has been openly critical of Merkel’s handling of the refugee crisis, said earlier this month he may break with party unity and run a separate campaign in next year’s election. The Christian Social Union and CDU traditionally field a joint candidate for chancellor.

In a nationally televised interview in July, Merkel said she’ll address the issue “at the appropriate time” and “when it’s necessary.” The chancellor is likely to be queried on the topic again on Sunday when she gives an interview to another German television channel.

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