What the Berlin attack means for Angela Merkel

The response that usually follows a terrorist attack is an outpouring of emotion: sympathy for the victims, anger at the perpetrators and a resolve to carry on. The response to the tragic attack on a Christmas market in Berlin last week that left 12 dead was a bit different.

From most, there was, of course, the sympathy, the sadness and the anger. However, the world’s far-right reacted rather differently.

First of all, Geert Wilders, likely the next Prime Minister of the Netherlands tweeted this picture.

Next, we had tweets from Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage and various members of AfD, a far-right German party.

Terror in Berlin is not an isolated incident and is directly related to Merkel’s asylum policy”

Angela Merkel was one of the most popular leaders that the world, and certainly Europe, has ever experienced. At the last election she won a huge 41% of the vote, with Germans pleased with her handling of the global financial crisis. Until last year she looked like she would maintain, if not increase, that huge margin of victory.

Then in August last year things began to change. Following the Syrian refugee crisis Merkel decided to open Germany up to hundreds of thousands of people – it is estimated that around 1 million arrived last year. Since then her popularity has begun to wane. As 0f November her Christian Democrat party was on around 33% of the vote compared to nearest challengers the Social Democrats on about 23%; still a comfortable lead.

But then came the Berlin attack. Originally the media began to report that it was a refugee who had committed the crime. It turned out that it wasn’t but the damage had already been done. This wasn’t the first terrorist attack that Germany has experienced this year but it was probably the most severe. The German public have been scared by the attack – understandable. However, now Merkel faces more of a battle to hold on to her position as Chancellor.

It remains to be seen how great an effect the attack will have on the polls but Merkel shouldn’t be too worried just yet. The left-wing Social Democrats lack the policies to appeal to those fed up with Merkel’s policy on immigration and AfD are stuck on around 15% of the vote. But the woman who’s been Chancellor since 2005 senses danger. She’s already been forced to admit that her refugee policy was a bit of a mistake, and is attempting to rush through a partial ban on the wearing of the burqa. It’s about as far as she can go within the legal limits of Germany’s constitution.

Angela Merkel is still, very likely, going to be elected Chancellor for a fourth time next year. However, her chancellorship may be different to that which the German public have been used to up to now. I’ve posted before about the rise of populism across the world – the USA, Brexit… the Netherlands will be the next nation to fall, but Germany seems immune for now. This incident will just provide more fuel though for the far-right to drill home their anti-immigration messages…