Analysis: The German parliamentary elections and refugee policy
Next year parliamentary and presidential elections will happen in the two most significant Member States of the European Union. While in France the choice of the conservative required two rounds of voting and about four million people ended up choosing the new candidate, the determination of the candidate for the German conservative dual party of the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) was a lightning-fast process.
By the end of Novermer, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she would be running again. At the beginning of December she was then chosen by 90 % of the delegates of her party to stay at the helm for the next two years.
The decision has been made. Who in the CDU/CSU would be brave enough to challenge her, when from the day she declared she would run again her popularity rose sharply, along with voter preferences for the dual party?
Merkel will lead again
According to the most recent electoral prognoses from the end of November (a summary of polls by two renowned agencies) the CDU/CSU coalition will win with 35.1 % of the vote. This would mean a loss of 6.4 % compared to the last elections, when they won 41.5 % of the vote.
The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party would currently receive the votes of 10 % of the electorate, the Social Democrats (SPD) would come in with 23 % compared to their 2013 result of 25.7 %, the Greens would improve by 2 % to 10.5 % , and the Left party would improve by 3 % compared to 2013 (9.5 %). The prognosis has the liberal Free Democratic Party re-entering the Bundestag by gaining 1.4 % more voters - last time they earned just 4.8 % of the vote.
Such an outcome would, of course, mean that neither an eventual red-red-green coalition, nor an eventual black [liberal democratic]-and-green coalition would be able to acquire a majority in the German legislature. Theoretically, the CDU/CSU could combine with the populist AfD and the liberal democratic FDP with the aim of acquiring a majority, but that would certainly be rejected by most CDU members and the Chancellor herself.
What is absolutely unimaginable is a coalition of CDU/CSU, the FDP and the Greens, because the Greens cannot agree with the FDP program in various areas. The solution, therefore, would again be offered by a grand coalition of the strongest parties.
That coalition would not be able to offer the voters any significant change in policy, just stability. The key player of the elections will be Merkel again, who won the last election with the slogan: "You know me."
Her voters mostly consider her a symbol of continuity, order, and peace. She can point to economic growth, record low unemployment, and a trade surplus during her time in office.
According to recent polls, 55 % of people in Germany want her to continue as Chancellor. The slight losses predicted for the parties in the current governing coalition can mainly be attributed to developments abroad over which the German Government had no direct influence.
The only thing the Government can be reproached for is that it did not predict the significance of those developments for Germany. When the hundreds of thousands of people impoverished by war, including entire families, got stuck on the "Balkan route", and when there was an acute danger of a humanitarian catastrophe in Europe of unseen dimenstions, somebody had to respond.
The EU as a whole, for now, is not capable of responding with lighting speed to acute problems. Together with Austria, therefore, Germany (also with the aid of Sweden) decided with dispatch to soften border controls and to allow the migrants onto their territories, including those who had already been registered in other Member States.
Populism hits a wall
That decision is now being used (or rather, abused) by numerous Austrian and German populist parties to score political points. AfD has gradually increased its voter preference ratings ever since those events.
As a consequence, the party broke through with a rather high rate of representation in various state legislatures throughout Germany, Significantly more than the other parties, it scored with so-called "non-voters", i.e., people who usually refuse to vote and who can be mobilized only under absolutely exceptional situations.
If next year the problems of the refugees will not suddenly come to the forefront of media interest, the chances of the AfD will fall when it comes to crossing the 5 % threshold for entry into Parliament. Prior to the outbreak of the refugee crisis, the party did not have that chance.
All of this, however, is far from meaning that the German Government is behaving helpfully toward asylum-seekers. In recent years it has tightened its laws on granting asylum several times.
The requests of many migrants have been rejected because they did not meet the new criteria for political asylum. Now they are being tolerated, but without work permits all they can do in Germany is wait to be deported, even though it is unknown when that will happen or where they will be sent.
As long as there is no new consensus among the Member States on the question of the continuing validity of the Dublin Regulation, Germany will not be able to return the rejected asylum-seekers to the states in which they first registered (i.e., to the Czech Republic, for example). The admission of more than one million asylum seekers over the past two years onto German territory necessitated enormous effort and expense, whether that concerned their accommodation, beds, clothing and diet, or the costs of administering their asylum requests.
Some Czech or Polish firms have, for example, made big profits supplying container housing for the refugees. The costs for police investigation of the numerous violent assaults on the refugees, or the arson attacks perpetrated against their housing, have also been enormous.
The same applies, of course, to the monitoring of potential Islamist terrorists, who may have accessed German territory as a consequence of these developments. To this day, therefore, thousands of refugees continue to live in Germany in undignified conditions, are unable to attend the language courses they were first promised, etc.
These delays to their integration make them even more in danger of eventually being recruited by the Islamists. It is, therefore, actually a miracle that no deadly attacks by Islamist terrorists have been perpetrated to date in Germany by those who, as some experts warn, may have come into the country as asylum-seekers.
That conclusion is only possible if we discount the July attack by an Afghan refugee on the passengers of a train near the Bavarian city of Würzburg, during which the assailant shot himself. Had a terrorist attack happened in Germany with a high number of deaths, as has happened over the years in London, Madrid, or Paris, then the German Chancellor's position would be in danger.
The international campaign agaist Merkel that has been led, for example, by the Republican candidate for President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, as well as by a former President of the Czech Republic and by numerous other European politicians (but mainly by the Russian secret services) has yet to produce the anticipated fruit. Merkel's critics, therefore, should reflect on whether their costly efforts have not ultimately actually aided in increasing her popularity in Germany, where she is demonstrating that she is able to successfully face them down.
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