Jeers and cheers for Merkel

The Nation - - WORLD -

CHAN­CEL­LOR An­gela Merkel may ap­pear to be cruis­ing to a vic­tory in next week’s elec­tions, but her cam­paign ral­lies across Ger­many have been plagued by rowdy pro­test­ers who have been jeer­ing, boo­ing and even fling­ing toma­toes at her.

From the west­ern univer­sity town of Hei­del­berg to the pic­turesque south­ern city of Rosen­heim and the eastern heart­land of Tor­gau, pro­test­ers bear­ing ban­ners like “Get lost” or “Merkel must go” have sought to drown out the chan­cel­lor’s speeches.

The un­ruly protests have jolted awake a snoozy cam­paign and tar­nished Merkel’s image of in­vin­ci­bil­ity, even though her con­ser­va­tive al­liance is commanding a strong dou­ble-digit lead in opin­ion polls.

They are also com­ing at a time when the anti- im­mi­gra­tion and anti-Is­lam Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) party has been gain­ing in the polls in the fi­nal stretch be­fore the Septem­ber 24 vote.

All of which has sparked ques­tions about the source of the pentup anger, par­tic­u­larly since the ex­plo­sively di­vi­sive is­sue of 2015’s mass refugee ar­rivals had seem­ingly faded as the in­flux eased last year.

“The rage is not fu­elled only by Merkel’s refugee pol­icy, but also by pow­er­less­ness, from the feel­ing of not be­ing taken se­ri­ously by ‘ them up there’,” the weekly mag­a­zine Spiegel said.

Timo Lo­chocki, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst at the Ger­man Marshall Fund, said the anger had been “long in the mak­ing” be­cause the rul­ing coali­tion of Merkel’s “CDU and the So­cial Demo­cratic Party do next to noth­ing to ap­pease th­ese vot­ers”.

“Over the last three to four years, the anti-es­tab­lish­ment vot­ers, plus dis­il­lu­sioned con­ser­va­tives fed up with the euro­zone res­cue and mi­gra­tion deal, are shift­ing more and more to the right,” he said – and straight into the arms of the AfD.

Far from be­ing a spon­ta­neous out­pour­ing of fury, the protests are highly or­gan­ised – and have the AfD’s fin­ger­prints all over them.

Many of the so-called en­raged cit­i­zens (“Wut­buerger” in Ger­man) ar­rive with AfD posters, re­flect­ing the party’s suc­cess in tap­ping into the out­rage over the ar­rival of more than a mil­lion refugees to Ger­many since 2015.

Ahead of Merkel’s planned rally on Satur­day at her con­stituency’s Baltic Sea re­sort of Binz, a call has gone out on so­cial me­dia among self-styled “pa­tri­ots” to mo­bilise for a protest.

Rene Springer, an ad­vi­sor to AfD can­di­date Alexan­der Gauland, told Die Zeit weekly that it was “com­pul­sory for AfD mem­bers to go to events of govern­ment politi­cians” and show their dis­ap­proval of the es­tab­lish­ment’s pro­gramme.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel ad­dresses an elec­tion cam­paign rally of the Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union yes­ter­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Thailand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.