How Angela Merkel Will Weather the Storm
BERLIN — The year that will decide Angela Merkel’s political fate could not have gotten off to a worse start. With German federal elections a mere 12 months away, Merkel’s Christian-Democratic Union suffered a resounding defeat in regional elections in her home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where it was outperformed by the right-wing and anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).
The vote was more than just symbolic. It displayed all the ingredients of a perfect political storm that could sweep Merkel from office. Yet instead of rushing a response, she has opted to wait it out. Her patience is a sound strategy, and perhaps her best chance of staying in office despite the considerable obstacles ahead.
Elections have become referendums on German refugee policy. Questions that typically win or lose elections — the economy, regional development, the welfare state — have faded from view. Voters have been oblivious to the fact that the country’s coffers, and Germans’ wallets, are fuller than they have been in a long time.
Nor does it seem to matter that the number of refugee arrivals has dropped sharply and that the government’s handling of the situation has improved significantly. Instead, votes are cast based on a decision that has been attributed to the chancellor: the decision not to close Germany’s borders.