AGE OF DISCONTENT

A remarkable amount of Germans want Angela Merkel to step down over her refugee policies

Can she change their minds?
Can she change their minds?
Image: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch
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A new poll shows that 40% of Germans believe chancellor Angela Merkel should resign over her policies toward asylum seekers fleeing conflict in the Middle East and looking to settle in the country.

Reuters reported the statistic today (Jan. 29), noting that it was the first time German research institute Insa asked respondents whether Merkel should quit. The poll was conducted for Focus, a conservative-leaning German weekly news magazine.

Of the roughly 2,000 Germans surveyed between Jan. 22 and Jan. 25 for the poll, 45.2% believe Merkel’s policies were not a reason for her to resign, illustrating how divided the EU powerhouse is over how best to deal with the 1.1 million asylum seekers that sought refuge in the country in the last year.

Merkel’s open-door policies toward migrants earned her Time’s Person of the Year award last year. But criticism has been mounting against the chancellor and her conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), reflecting how citizens may be exhausted by a drawn-out and complicated process of welcoming migrants. Merkel’s approval ratings dropped to a nearly four-year low in the midst of the refugee crisis last October. As the public begins to doubt the government’s ability to manage the influx of people, members of Merkel’s own party have also started to voice concern, too. This month, about 40 CDU members urged Merkel to change her position on refugees or face division in the party.

Merkel has been taking steps to address these mounting pressures. Vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel announced yesterday (Jan. 28) that Germany will classify Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia as “safe countries of origin”—meaning asylum seekers from those countries will most likely be rejected by Germany.

It’s unclear exactly how much that will lighten Germany’s load. According to figures released by the interior ministry earlier this month (Jan. 6, link in German), the top countries of origin for asylum applications in 2015 were Syria, followed by Albania, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.