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The Incredible Shrinking Merkel: Sunday’s Elections Could Be The Starting Pistol For Merkel’s Would-Be Successors

Sunday’s Politico.EU notes that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s reign as leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and therefore of her country may not be long for this world.

While the odds of the powerful Mrs. Merkel being deposed are slim, they have improved since her party’s monumental failure in German state elections on Sunday, with her migration policy as the rationale for voters abandoning the CDU en masse.

Politico reports:

Until the refugee crisis hit, the German leader seemed all but invincible. But her failure to broker a broad solution at the European level, leaving Germany virtually alone to shoulder the problem, has left her exposed. Her approval ratings are back above 50 percent but have proved volatile. Sunday’s verdict was a clear warning from the electorate that Germans have lost patience with the chancellor’s deliberate approach to the crisis. Merkel argues, with justification, that the myriad challenges Germany faces on the refugee front won’t be solved overnight.

Yet, the election loss changes the dynamic. For the first time, her own party critics can point to hard election results to argue that her policies are having a detrimental effect on them. Though Germans are roughly split between those who support and those who oppose the chancellor’s course on refugees, many in her own party are in the latter camp.

With Merkel’s party already divided on the issue, it’s only a matter of time before challengers emerge. It’s still very unlikely she would be ousted as chancellor between now and the next round of elections, expected in the fall of 2017. But if she doesn’t turn the tide in her favor soon, she may either decide or be forced by her party to forgo another run.

The comments are echoed by German website N-TV.de, which specifically mentions the incendiary tweets of one of the CDU’s more conservative members, and social media firebrand, Erika Steinbach:

The polling stations were not even closed before CDU politician Erika Steinbach provided a renewed, scandalous attack on the refugee policy of Chancellor Angela Merkel… Steinbach tweeted [about the migrant crisis]: “Since September all without the consent of the Bundestag… as in a dictatorship..”

Ms. Steinbach is the human rights commissioner of the CDU, and so her comments are even more noteworthy.

But N24 disagrees, even claiming that Mrs. Merkel may be safer as CDU leader now, given that some of her party’s rising stars have been kneecapped by the most recent elections.

The website also notes that Mrs. Merkel’s presence at campaign events still draws standing ovations, and that the Chancellor improves the CDU’s electability in polling.

The Times however, notes that one of the losers of Super Sunday, Julia Klockner, may come back to haunt Mrs. Merkel:

Mrs Merkel, 61, faces a national election in November next year but does not yet have to confront a leadership rival within her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. Voters may have put paid to the hopes of one successor, Julia Klöckner, 43, the leader of the CDU in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, who was projected to lose to the centre-left Social Democratic Party.

Germany’s politics is more complex and convoluted that the systems that Americans and Brits know best. But what is at least clear is that around the world it looks to observers like Mrs. Merkel has been given a very bloody nose for her migration policies. Politico claims that Germany is, like the rest of Europe, tacking right and tacking populist. World leaders will be, now more than ever, cautious not to follow her lead.

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