German Chancellor Angela Merkel faced some rowdy demonstrators at a campaign event in Quedlinburg, Germany on Saturday, in advance of the September 24 election. The demonstrators were protesting Merkel's open borders policy from 2015 that saw nearly a million refugees, mostly from Iraq and Syria, pour into the country.
Merkel had a change of heart in 2016, closing several border crossings and denying asylum to many. The result was that only 280,000 refugees entered Germany that year, and only 108,000 so far this year.
But Merkel told a local newspaper that she does not regret her decision to allow so many potential terrorists into the country. Germany has suffered a spate of terror attacks in the last two years and many blame Merkel's policies for the attacks.
“I would make all of the important decisions of 2015 the same way again,” Merkel was quoted as saying in a Welt am Sonntag newspaper interview published Sunday. Four weeks before Germany’s election on Sept. 24, the comments underscore her conviction that there was a humanitarian need to open the border when a record influx of refugees made their way through southern and eastern Europe to Germany that year.
Part of the problem in the buildup to the 2015 crisis is that Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Italy were too often left alone by other European Union countries to deal with refugees arriving from outside the bloc, Merkel was quoted as saying. She renewed her campaign pledge that Germany “should never again witness” such an emergency.
Merkel’s open-borders stance depressed her approval ratings last year and spurred the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party after a record number of 980,000 asylum seekers, many of them fleeing war in Syria, arrived in Germany in 2015. Critics included U.S. President Donald Trump, who called Merkel’s policy a “catastrophic mistake” in an interview with European media.
Merkel’s poll numbers rebounded as the influx ebbed to 280,000 last year, restricted by border closures along the so-called Balkan route and a refugee accord between the EU and Turkey. Some 106,000 asylum seekers arrived in the first seven months of 2017, led by Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans, according to German Interior Ministry figures.
Support for Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led bloc declined 1 percentage point to 38 percent while her main opponent, the Social Democrats led by challenger Martin Schulz, also fell 1 point to 23 percent, according to a weekly Emnid poll for Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
At the same time, 51 percent of Germans would vote for Merkel if the chancellor were elected directly, compared with 22 percent for Schulz, according to the newspaper. That compares with a 39-38 percent edge for Merkel in January, when Schulz’s emergence as her main challenger gave the SPD a temporary poll boost.
The pro-business Free Democrats and the Alternative for Germany gained one point each in the weekly survey, polling 9 percent and 8 percent respectively, with the anti-capitalist Left party unchanged at 9 percent and the Greens declining 1 point to 7 percent.
What is going to save Merkel from defeat is the weakness of her main rival, Social Democrat Martin Schulz, whose far left platform has put off millions of voters who might otherwise vote for a viable alternative to Merkel. But the Alternative for Germany party who oppose Merkel's refugee policies, are going to take millions of votes from Merkel's coalition, putting her outright election as chancellor in jeapordy.
The AfD has been making their opposition felt on the campaign trail.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel faced rowdy protesters at a campaign event in Quedlinburg, Germany on Saturday, including jeers and chants of "liar, liar".
Reuters reported that Merkel was interrupted during a 30-minute campaign address in the city by groups of unruly demonstrators holding signs that read "Merkel must go". Many accused Merkel of terror attacks in the nation in recent years.
Merkel, who is running for the nomination of the Christian Democratic Union party for a fourth term in office, is reportedly a favorite to win in September.
According to Reuters, Merkel responded to the protesters by saying Germany's problems won't be solved by "screaming."
“I hope you were able to understand some of that even though some of you out there kept on yelling,” Merkel told the crowd.
"Some believe the problems in Germany can be fixed by screaming - but I don’t think so and the majority of the people here don’t think so either,” she added. “Some people can’t do anything else but scream and shout - but we’re not going to let them lead us astray.”
"Diversity makes us strong in Germany and that's something we want to maintain," she said Saturday. Sound familiar? It's a statement that's impossible to prove. In fact, the question could be asked; was Germany stronger internally when it was a homogenus, mostly Christian country? And the follow up question: In what way has Germany become "stronger" with the influx of several million aliens who are rejecting German culture and trying to impose their own?
For the present, it doesn't matter. Unless Merkel makes a major faux pas, she is assured of a victory on election day.