Financial Times: End Of The Merkel Era Is Within Sight

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From the Financial Times:

At the beginning of this year, Angela Merkel had a good claim to be the most successful politician in the world. The German chancellor had won three successive election victories. She was the dominant political figure in Europe and hugely popular at home.

But the refugee crisis that has broken over Germany is likely to spell the end of the Merkel era. With the country in line to receive more than a million asylum seekers this year alone, public anxiety is mounting — and so is criticism of Ms Merkel, from within her own party. Some of her close political allies acknowledge that it is now distinctly possible that the chancellor will have to leave office, before the next general election in 2017. Even if she sees out a full term, the notion of a fourth Merkel administration, widely discussed a few months ago, now seems improbable.

In some ways, all this is deeply unfair. Ms Merkel did not cause the Syrian civil war, or the troubles of Eritrea or Afghanistan. Her response to the plight of the millions of refugees displaced by conflict has been bold and compassionate. The chancellor has tried to live up to the best traditions of postwar Germany, including respect for human-rights and a determination to abide by international legal obligations.

The trouble is that Ms Merkel’s government has clearly lost control of the situation. German officials publicly endorse the chancellor’s declaration that “We can do this”. But there is panic just beneath the surface: costs are mounting, social services are creaking, Ms Merkel’s poll ratings are falling and far-right violence is on the rise. Der Spiegel, a news magazine, wrote this week that: “Germany these days is a place where people feel entirely uninhibited about expressing their hatred and xenophobia.”

As the placid surface of German society is disturbed, so arguments about the positive economic and demographic impact of immigration are losing their impact. Instead, fears about the long-term social and political effect of taking in so many newcomers — particularly from the imploding Middle East — are gaining ground. Meanwhile, refugees are still heading into Germany — at a rate of around 10,000 a day. (By contrast, Britain is volunteering to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees over four years.)

Read the rest of Gideon Rachman’s piece here.


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