Could Angela Merkel be the next Hillary Clinton? Merkel has announced that she will seek a fourth term in what is expected to be a hotly contested election cycle. While many observers have lauded Merkel’s leadership, citizens across the world are looking for change and to upset the political order. When it comes to Germany, Angela Merkel is the political order and could be a plum target for a change-driven upset.
Earlier this year, Merkel’s approval rating had fallen to a five year low, partly due to Islamic terrorism. Only 45% of Germans reported that they were “satisfied” with the job that Merkel is doing, marking the lowest overall approval rating since 2011. However, that poll also found that 35% of Germans would vote for Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the highest rating among all parties. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany enjoyed the second highest rating, with 23% of Germans reporting that they’d vote for the SPD.
Merkel is a centre-right candidate, and will likely come under attack from both left and farther-right parties. While Merkel has suffered from slipping support, she is still widely popular. As of right now, she appears to be the front-runner. However, as recent elections have proven, nothing can be taken for granted.
The CDU lost several lower level elections this past September. Merkel accepted blame for the losses. She acknowledged that her open-door migrant policies were likely a driving factor.
The Rise of Germany’s Alt-Right
The Alternative for Germany (AfG) party has been rising in the polls, having gained 2% during the last polling. The AfG is a nationalist, populist-right party that aims to restrict migration. In April of 2013, the AfG won only 4.7% of the vote. But now the party is enjoying support from nearly 15% of the German population. The AfG generally supports the European Union, but is skeptical of further integration, and draws most of its support from the working and middle classes.
The AfG shares many similarities as the emerging “alt-right” in the United States. Most AfG supporters are fiercely nationalist, are wary of the government, suspicious of migrants, and rely on populist messages to drum up support. Until the Brexit Vote and the victory of Donald Trump, most people weren’t giving these far-right parties much attention at the national level. Now, they are becoming forces to reckon with.
Another string of terrorist attacks or crimes committed by refugees and migrants could dramatically increase support for the AfG. Many Germans are already skeptical of refugees, and especially Merkel’s handling of the situation. While Merkel has done a solid job managing the economy and Germany’s position in the EU, her open-door stance in regards to migrants could cost her support.