After having taken her lumps in state elections two weeks ago, Angela Merkel will be closely watching another electoral contest this weekend that is sure to be read as a proxy referendum on her open door migrant policies. A vote for Berlin’s legislature is scheduled for Sunday, and the numbers don’t look good:
The AfD, which has won seats in nine of Germany’s 16 states, has successfully played on immigration fears. Berlin candidate Georg Pazderski has said: “I favor educating these people (immigrants) but not integrating them. We must prepare them for going back.”
An INSA poll this week put the CDU on 18 percent in Berlin, down more than five points from the 2011 vote and only four points ahead of the AfD.
The SPD – which is in coalition with Merkel at the federal level – is expected to remain the biggest party in Berlin and aims to form a coalition with the Greens and radical Left.
Berlin’s SPD mayor is doing his utmost to demonize the AfD ahead of the vote:
“It would be seen around the world as a sign of the return of the right-wing and the Nazis in Germany,” Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller, a Social Democrat (SPD), wrote on Facebook on Thursday.
“Berlin is not any old city – Berlin is the city that transformed itself from the capital of Hitler’s Nazi Germany into a beacon of freedom, tolerance, diversity and social cohesion,” he said.
This kind of tactic has worked several times in France, but it has been slowly losing its effectiveness there. The argumentum ad Hitleram might still have some traction in Germany, but some anecdotal evidence suggests that it may fall on deaf ears. “Merkel made a mistake letting everyone in. She will pay the price and so will Germany, our children,” a CDU voter—who incidentally still intends to support Merkel—told Reuters.
Anger is running high across Europe, recent survey data from Pew shows. In Germany, 67 percent disapprove of how the European Union has handled the refugee issue, while only 26 percent approve. In most of the rest of the EU, the numbers are even more stark. While Merkel will take her lumps—and may as a result decide not to run for re-election next year—the AfD is not really in danger of getting into a governing coalition any time soon, given the realities of German politics. But their successes in Germany are likely just a taste of the kinds of gains kindred parties will make in the coming months and years across the continent.