Nice, Turkey, Wurzburg, Ansbach. The escalating violence of the last few days raise the pressure on the German Chancellor, whose refugee policy is again in the spotlight. The political repercussions could strike where it matters to her most.
BERLIN — Until recently, it had seemed Angela Merkel had turned things around for 2016. The number of new refugees arriving in Germany seemed to be down to a manageable level, and the popularity of her party, the CDU (Christian Democratic Union), was on the rise. Chancellor Merkel seemed to be all set for a relaxing summer break in Southern Tyrol.
But then things went bad very quickly. It began with the July 14 terror attack in Nice, followed quickly by the attempted coup in Turkey, the dictatorial reaction of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to said coup, the axe terrorist of Wurzburg, the killing spree in Munich, the knife attack in Reutlingen and the suicide bomber of Ansbach. There were only 10 days between the terror attacks in Nice and Ansbach. But the events in these days have drastically changed the domestic political situation that Merkel faces.
The violent attacks do not seem to have a common thread linking them directly. But what all of these attacks DO have in common is their outcome, namely the spreading of fear that undermines the standing of the government.
But beyond the general anxiety, Merkel risks being branded as the person responsible for this summer of terror, because of her refugee policies. It is certainly true that not all perpetrators were refugees, and in any case were in Germany without having benefitted from Merkel's refugee policies. And it is also true that several of these attacks were not even necessarily linked to Islamic radicalism. But the electorate tends to not make these finer points of distinction.
The CDU tried to capitalize on the general feeling of security that most citizens tended to feel during the German regional elections in March, presenting their program with the slogan "So that security will not just be a word but a feeling once more." But even leading CDU politicians admit that, at the moment, that feeling of security is pretty scarce on the ground.
Moreover, the much talked-about EU-Turkey refugee agreement, signed in May by Berlin and Ankara and instigated by Merkel, will now face even further criticisms.
The next regional elections are set to be held in the northern state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania on September 4th. Earlier polls had shown that both extreme right wing parties, the AfD (Alternative for Germany) and the NPD (National Democratic Party of Germany, Neo-Nazis) were likely to receive 23% of the votes. That number is bound to increase after these recent events. Some CDU sources already say they fear that the AfD may win the majority of votes in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. That would be a doubly tough blow to Merkel, since it's her home state.