Opinion: Merkel gets a warning | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 05.08.2016
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Opinion: Merkel gets a warning

Angela Merkel's popularity is fading thanks to fallout from her refugee policy, the latest poll from German broadcaster ARD suggests. But for now, there's no clear alternative to the chancellor, DW's Jens Thurau writes.

It's something that should give even the chancellor, a woman who it is said sees little import in polls, pause: 65 percent of those questioned were unhappy with her asylum and refugee policies, 7 percent more than in April.

The reasons behind this trend were made clear in other parts of the questionnaire: The Islamist attacks in Würzburg and Ansbach and the mass shooting in Munich all took place after the previous ARD Germany poll. In that time approval for the chancellor's performance has dropped from 59 to 47 percent.

Her sharpest critic, CSU boss Horst Seehofer, has seen his own numbers go up by about the same amount and is essentially on par with his rival in terms of approval ratings - throughout all of Germany, not just his base of Bavaria.

A clear trend: Please, take our concerns seriously!

Jens Thurau

DW's Jens Thurau

Of course the Munich attacks were not directly connected with Merkel's refugee policy, and both of the Islamists that carried out the Würzburg and Ansbach attacks had been in the country for a while, not just since Merkel opened the doors. Nevertheless, the people's insecurity is palpable: 76 percent, a clear majority, fear further attacks in Germany.

There is a general feeling that the chancellor doesn't take the concerns of the people seriously. Her wait-and-see political style is the reason. It wasn't until days after the attacks that Merkel returned to Berlin from her vacation to address the press. That could show she has strong nerves and wants to avoid hysterics, but it may also be too much for the people.

Twilight of the chancellor?

And now? Is this the political twilight for the CDU chancellor, eleven years after she took office?

No, the numbers give no such indication. Apparently people pay pretty close attention. As for the same Horst Seehofer whose approval ratings had improved so drastically, 64 percent of respondents said that his CSU party put its own interests ahead of the success of the government. It seems that people just don't like complainers.

Yet even though criticism of Merkel is growing, German citizens do not yet see an alternative. Despite dips in Merkel's popularity, the political mood remains astonishingly stable: If elections were held today, the CDU and CSU would remain at 34 percent.

The right-wing populist AfD would not be able to take advantage of fear of terrorism and would remain at 12 percent, though this no doubt has to do with its tendency toward very public airings of personnel disputes. In other words, the polls are giving Merkel a yellow card - telling her she can continue to govern but with a warning. And she should take to heart the fact that we, the citizens, are concerned.

A clear verdict on Erdogan

Things could also get touchy for Merkel if, as seems likely, she sticks to the migration agreement with Turkey. Those polled condemned the crackdown in Turkey following the failed coup there. Some 90 percent of respondents said they thought democracy was under threat. And they also want clarity from the German government on the issue. They say that Merkel should walk away from the deal if need be.

In any case: No visa-free travel for Turks. That was the opinion of 70 percent of those polled.

There is simply no one that the people trust to take over the reins from the chancellor. Nonetheless, Angela Merkel should no longer take that sentiment for granted.

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