Merkel’s One-Issue Path to Political Suicide
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policy has led to domestic turmoil, her own political implosion, and her recent failure to form a government.
In 2015, the country took the unprecedented step of suspending a 1990 protocol that required refugees to seek asylum in the first European country they entered. This essentially allowed Syrian immigrants to enter anywhere in Europe and make their way to Germany without danger of deportation. But rather than only Syrians coming, or even those fleeing the Islamic State (ISIS), immigrants from various Middle Eastern and North African countries, many completely unaffected by ISIS, poured into Germany. In fact, after Syria, Afghanistan led the pack as the country of most immigrants’ origin. Low estimates put the number of asylum seekers that arrived in Europe in 2015 alone at nearly 1.1 million, with some higher than 1.5 million. This contrasts with only around 280,000 asylum arrivals in 2014.
But government is not a moral enterprise, and any attempt to treat it as such inevitably succeeds in bringing out the worst in human nature. The crowding of multiple nationalities with different languages, travelling and living in tight quarters, often produced open conflict between those fleeing ISIS-ravaged Iraq and Syria, and the Afghans often fleeing nothing more than political instability and their poor economy.
One of Left’s many delusions remains the belief that humans learn evil, rather than bring it into the world at birth. But Germans’ World War II guilt leftovers are growing a bit moldy as younger generations of Europeans learn the hard way that all peoples, not just their own ancestors, are capable of collective, lethal radicalism if the right conditions align.
On New Year’s Eve 2015, thousands of immigrants, most in the country on asylum and many there illegally, assaulted more than a thousand women in Cologne. New York Times conservative columnist Ross Douthat even called for Merkel to step down, so Germany could “avoid paying too high a price for her high-minded folly.”
After multiple terrorist attacks last year, including a knife and ax attack on a train by an Afghan refugee sympathetic to ISIS, who had received asylum in 2015, 61 percent of Germans stated that they believe refugees increase the likelihood of terrorism, and more than two-thirds expressed displeasure with the European Union’s handling of the refugee crisis.
These events and others last year, as well as the bureaucratic and humanitarian overload that the country experienced through the sheer volume of asylum seekers, emboldened opponents of Merkel’s refugee policy.
The rise of the far right party, Alternative for Germany (AFD), gave voice to many of those opponents, winning over 12 percent of the vote this September, making it the third largest party of the Bundestag, Germany's parliament. Merkel’s Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU), meanwhile, suffered its poorest showing since 1949, taking only a third of the vote.
But rather than countenance an alliance with the more conservative Free Democratic Party (FDP) and those on the far Right, whose party her policies created, Merkel tried to form a government with the FDP and the far left Green Party. But hopes of this Jamaica coalition (based on the parties’ colors being the same as the Jamaican flag) faded when FDP leader Christian Lindner walked out tweeting, “It’s better not to govern, than to govern falsely.”
If Merkel were not the politician she is, she and her coalition would have lost in September by a landslide. The liberal Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) failure to gain Jeremy Corbyn-like traction shows that although most Germans are dissatisfied with Merkel, they still don’t want to return open, left-of-center governance. But even Merkel’s political capital has limits, and SPD chairman Martin Schulz’s call for a United States of Europe — something even the EU-centric Merkel would never accept — will soon test those limits. If she must soon call for new elections, the AFD will have a strong argument to make to the growing number of disaffected conservative voters that it can return them to the CDU’s glory days, without the open borders, and without the danger of a powerful, bureaucratic swamp in Brussels, similar to Washington, DC, overriding Germans’ national sovereignty.
David Cameron stepped aside as Prime Minister when UK citizens rejected his vision for their country, by voting to leave the EU. If Germany holds new elections, Merkel’s party would do well if she takes this recent history to heart.
The German government recently announced a new self-deportation scheme, not-so-subtly dubbed “Your country. Your future. Now!” that will run until February, which raises its bribes to asylum-seekers going home. In addition to 1,000 Euros to those who leave before the government processes their applications, the government is offering brand-new kitchens, bathrooms, and rent — to be enjoyed in their home countries — if the immigrants will only get out of Germany. It remains to be seen whether Germans’ patience will run as thin with Merkel as with many of the refugees that her government ushered into the country.