Merkel and her ruling conservative CDU/CSU alliance have taken a hit over the last few years, partly as a result of her handling of the migrant and refugee crisis, the biggest to face Europe since the Second World War. On Friday, the results of a YouGov survey was published in the newspaper Die Welt, showing that half of the German electorate (out of a sample of 2,308 respondents) agreed with the slogan “Merkel must go!” chanted by right-wing demonstrators at her rallies. The highest percentage came from supporters of the far-right AfD (Alternative for Germany) party, but large numbers of the Left party and center-left SPD voters shared those sentiments as well.
Merkel’s main rival is Martin Schulz of the SPD (Social Democratic Party), who on Friday also held a rally in Berlin where he discussed reforms, increased spending on schools and addressing gender disparities, which he accused Merkel of ignoring. By contrast Schulz was not met with any booing, but there are fears his SPD party is undermined by years of coalition with the CDU/CSU since the elections of 2013.
“Martin Schulz is also not tackling those issues,” a young man who attended the rally told RT. “His party has been in the government for the past few years, so he’s not a candidate for true change.”
The CDU/CSU is still in the lead at the polls, with support for them showing at 37 percent. The SPD is trailing behind at 22 percent, while the anti-immigration AfD holds 10 percent. The FDP and the Left party, which calls for higher taxes on the rich and the dissolution of NATO, hold 9 percent each.
“It’s important to have a left [wing] agenda in their [the government’s] programs so the country is able to make a step to the left in the future and avoid more steps into the right, which we are doing at the moment, I’m afraid,” said another man at a Left campaign rally.
The loud heckling and whistling was audible on RT Ruptly’s live feed from the Friday rally even before Merkel began to speak, and the organizers eventually had to raise the mic’s volume. This did not prevent the German leader from giving her prepared 30-minute speech, but she added an improvised detail as an opening remark to her opponents.
“With whistling and yelling, one will surely not shape Germany’s future,” Merkel told the protesters on the last day election campaigning is allowed to take place.
This is not the first time Merkel has been disrupted by demonstrators on the campaign trail. At a rally in Heidelberg earlier in September, the Chancellor was grazed by a thrown tomato, which left a faint, but visible, stain on her red jacket.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party is comfortably ahead of all contenders. Her approval rating, however, has not yet fully recovered after going into a tailspin following her handling of the 2015 migrant crisis.
The mass influx of refugees has a major impact on Germany’s national security situation. Back in August 2016, the head of the Bavarian department of the domestic intelligence agency (BfV), Manfred Hauser, warned that “hit squads” linked to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) might have infiltrated Germany posing as refugees.
His agency looked into “hundreds” of such cases, he said. In 2016, jihadists carried out five attacks, while the security services managed to prevent seven others, according to the BfV.
The deadliest incident occurred on December 19, 2016, when a 27-year-old rejected asylum-seeker – a Tunisian man named Anis Amri who had pledged allegiance to IS – plowed a truck into a Berlin Christmas market, leaving 12 people dead and dozens injured. The assailant, who had previously been on the radar of the police, managed to flee the scene and reach Italy, where he was gunned down by police.
Just months earlier, in July, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee detonated an explosive device outside a music festival in the town of Ansbach, killing himself and injuring 12 others. That same month, a 17-year-old Afghan refugee with an axe assaulted train passengers near Wurzburg in central Germany, leaving five people injured. IS claimed responsibility for all of the attacks. The terrorist threat remains high, and the country “must expect further attacks by individuals or terror groups” which “may occur any time,” the head of the BfV, Hans-Georg Maassen, warned this March.
Germany failed to make a necessary assessment of the security situation following the New Year’s Eve incidents in Cologne, political analyst John Bosnitch told RT. He added that the authorities did little to effectively accelerate integration. As “long as the migrants with a different cultural background continue to maintain their own bloc within the German society… the possibility of integrating this group is going to decline, and it is going to become a much worse problem in Germany than it is today,” he said.
To somehow fix the situation and “equally” distribute migrants among the EU, Merkel’s government has been pushing (along with Brussels) for specific quotas. The goal of resettling 160,000 migrants was approved by the EU in September 2015.