Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Pulling Up the German Welcome Mat?

Sunday’s election in Angela Merkel's home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – widely seen as a test run for Germany’s federal election in September 2017 – was devastating for her Christian Democratic Union. And the political backlash against her government's stance on the refugee crisis is likely only to get stronger.

BERLIN – This is Berlin’s summer of discontent. Exactly one year ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s principled decision to open Germany’s borders to refugees stranded in Hungary impressed millions of people around the world. As ordinary Germans flocked to train stations and border posts to greet people seeking shelter from war, distress, and misery, Germany’s “Welcome Culture” was saluted as a truly inspiring example of humanitarianism.

One year later, the tide has turned – above all against Merkel, now in her 11th year in office. Her credo, “Wir schaffen das” (“We can do it”), inspired thousands of volunteers to open their hearts – and often their homes – to refugees. Now, however, her assertive optimism is confronting a dramatic political backlash.

Sunday’s election in Merkel’s home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – widely seen as a test run for Germany’s federal election in September 2017 – was devastating for her Christian Democratic Union. While all mainstream parties suffered severe losses, the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) finished second, winning an unprecedented 21% of the vote and relegating the CDU to third place.

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