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Opinion

Opinion: Merkel's Waterloo?

Angela Merkel's support among the German people is sinking rapidly due to the refugee crisis. No wonder: The welcome culture has long since become a culture of concern, says Kay-Alexander Scholz.

When Angela Merkel decided to open Germany's borders to refugees, it was a political solo act. There was no EU mandate, and she asked neither the German parliament nor the German people if they were in agreement.

She simply used her position as chancellor to push ahead with her decision - something for which she, at first, garnered much praise, both in Germany and the rest of the world. But few could have imagined the magnetic effect her decision would have.

There are already members of parliament from her own CDU party who are talking about setting up a committee after the next election to investigate exactly what happened in the summer of 2015. The idea was first circulated by the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), which, according to current polls, would both be represented in parliament in the event of an election - the AfD for the very first time. It's no secret that Merkel's actions have made her vulnerable legally; the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the CSU, is even threatening to launch a constitutional challenge.

Germany on Merkel withdrawal

Some 70 percent of the population is now uneasy in the face of the ongoing influx of refugees. The mood in the country hasn't been this bad in more than 10 years. And since many associate Merkel directly with the refugee crisis, her popularity reflects the fact that the majority of Germans are unhappy with the job she is doing as the head of the government.

Kommentarfoto Kay-Alexander Scholz Hauptstadtstudio

DW's Kay-Alexander Scholz

There's also a psychological component to the current atmosphere. Merkel has now been governing Germany for 10 years, and they have been good years for the country.

Until recently, sociologists even spoke positively about "the Merkel Generation." In past years, Merkel always enjoyed correspondingly high approval ratings.

Everything was going so well, many say, shaking their heads in disbelief. No new debt, record tax revenues, and low unemployment figures - why is everything being messed up now?

When the best in the class fails, the disappointment is doubly painful. That's also why there is such an extreme emotional reaction. Germany, at present, is going through a cold-turkey Merkel withdrawal!

Concern for Europe

And then there's the matter of Europe. The majority of Germans are actually enthusiastic Europeans. But now, the evening news serves up a daily reminder of the growing fissures in Europe's hard-won unity.

Meanwhile, the wind is blowing harder and harder in the face of Merkel's appeals for a European solution to the refugee crisis.

Many have long given up belief in Merkel's plan. For some, that contributes to a quiet anger that only surfaces in the opinion polls. Others are giving more vocal expression to their anger, and feel drawn to populists and movements such as Pegida.

And still others are feeling demoralized and worried that extremists in Europe could be handed political power. Europe is in crisis because of Angela Merkel!

Amazingly, she was the very person who moved the EU forward in recent years! Many call it a tragedy. Meanwhile, support for the EU is also decreasing dramatically at the moment.

Outlook? Difficult!

What will come of all this? Will Merkel continue to serve as chancellor, will she resign, or will she be forced out of office?

No one knows the answer. But it is worth remembering that Merkel has survived other political lows; for example, in the wake of the financial crisis, or during the Greek debt crisis. And the majority of the population approves of the measures that have now been agreed on in the latest deal on new asylum laws.

There is a chance, then, that things could get better for Merkel. But lowering the number of refugees that continue to stream into the country in the thousands every day will prove decisive.

One scenario that is almost too hard to bear is what would happen if there were to be a large-scale terror attack in Germany. In that case, it's almost certain that Angela Merkel would be sent packing.

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