A new poll has found Germans are split over whether Chancellor Merkel should seek a fourth term. Many criticize her response to an influx of refugees, but officials say fewer than one million actually arrived in 2015.
Half of Germans oppose German Chancellor Angela Merkel seeking a fourth consecutive term, according to a survey published on Sunday in the newspaper "Bild am Sonntag."
The survey, conducted by the polling company Emnid, asked 501 Germans in August whether or not they would like to see Angela Merkel serve another term as Chancellor after the federal election in second half of 2017.
Results showed that 50 percent of poll participants were against a new term for the Chancellor, while 42 percent were in favor. She has come under fire from both citizens and fellow politicians for her refugee policies.
Merkel was asked about her plans for the 2017 election in an interview with regional newspapers published on Tuesday. She said: "I will comment on that at the appropriate time. I'm sticking to that." Up till then, Merkel had been expected to make that announcement next spring.
Within supporters of Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), 70 percent support another term for Merkel, while 22 percent said they were opposed.
Merkel has yet to announce whether or not she will seek a fourth term as Chancellor. According to the German magazine "Der Spiegel," Merkel is waiting to see if she has the backing of the CDU's Bavarian sister-party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
Should she win another term, Merkel could set a new record for the longest time in office for a Chancellor. The current record is held by Helmut Kohl who retained his post for 16 years from 1982 to 1998.
CDU 'unprepared' for challenges
Merkel heads a grand coalition along with the CSU and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). However, tensions have been running high within the coalition over Merkel's refugee and integration policies in response to an influx of asylum-seekers last year.
Germany's Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday-night television that Merkel's CDU party "underestimated" the challenges of integrating the new arrivals into German society.
"The Union underestimated the challenges, and we have always said it is unthinkable that we take in one million people every year in Germany," Gabriel said in the interview with public broadcaster ZDF.
He also criticized Merkel's "Wir schaffen das" ("We can do this") slogan, which she has used repeatedly in reference to managing the migrant crisis. Gabriel said repeating the phrase is not enough to solve the crisis and that the CDU needed to create more conditions for Germany to cope.
Lower number of refugee arrivals
Although original estimates said Germany accepted around 1.1 million migrants and refugees last year, officials are now saying the numbers are actually lower.
In an interview published Sunday with "Bild am Sonntag," the head of Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), said double registrations and those who traveled past Germany accounted for falsely high numbers.
"What is certain is that last year fewer than one million people came to Germany," Frank-Jürgen Weise told the newspaper. He said an updated count would be presented soon.
The BAMF chief said his office was expecting between 250,000 and 300,000 refugee arrivals this year - a stark difference to last year's arrival rate. Should the estimate be too low, however, Weise said his office would be "under pressure" and application processing would take longer.
Weise also noted that integrating refugees into Germany's job market would take time and come at a high financial cost. Around 10 percent of the refugees are academics while 40 percent have no formal training although they have practical work experience, the BAMF head noted.
For the remaining 50 percent of refugees who are in need of training and experience, Weise emphasized the need to bring people "as quickly as possible" to job centers.
rs/jm (dpa, Reuters)