Angela Merkel’s ‘worst decision’ boosted Euroscepticism: ‘Big crack in the armour’

Angela Merkel heckled during speech in German Bundestag

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It has long been known that the German leader, 67, had planned to step down this year. Germans voted on who they wanted as her successor at the federal election on Sunday. Olaf Scholz led the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) to a narrow victory at the election. His party emerged with 25.7 percent of the vote followed by Mrs Merkel’s CDU, led by Armin Laschet, and its Bavarian sister party the CSU, which together took 24.1 percent.

The Greens took 14.8 percent, according to data on the official Federal Returning Officer website.

Mr Scholz has said he wants to form a coalition government with the Greens and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).

One party that really suffered at the election was the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The anti-immigration, anti-EU party lost its status as Germany’s main opposition after taking just 10.3 percent of the vote.

In 2017 the AfD became the third largest party in the Bundestag with 12.6 percent of the vote but is now only the fifth largest.

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According to political expert John Callahan, the AfD’s initial rapid rise in popularity can be traced back to Mrs Merkel’s migration policy.

Mr Callahan is the Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at New England College in the US and has worked for the US State Department and in intelligence.

He told Express.co.uk: “I think the single worst decision of her tenure was the immigration decision during the Arab Spring.

“I think from that you can trace a direct line to the fact that there’s for the first time in German history a Eurosceptic party in the Bundestag, the AfD.

“Her chosen successor fell because of that, so I think that’s a big crack in the armour of what would otherwise be a pretty exemplary or pretty positive time in office.”

The AfD saw members elected to the Bundestag for the first time at the 2017 election, having never been represented before.

Mr Callahan linked the party’s rise to power on an anti-immigration platform to Mrs Merkel’s decision to accept an unlimited number of asylum seekers in 2015.

In that year and 2016 alone some one million refugees arrived in Germany, many of whom were from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

The huge numbers of migrants followed the Arab Spring uprisings in the early 2010s and came during the ongoing Syrian civil war.

Mrs Merkel defended her policy at the time amid criticism from within her own government and the AfD.

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After the AfD entered the Bundestag the party called for the repatriation of some 500,000 Syrian migrants.

The party also proved troublesome for Mrs Merkel in another way.

Its activities in the German state of Thuringia last year effectively led to the resignation of Mrs Merkel’s defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as CDU leader.

AKK, as she is sometimes known, had been lined up as Mrs Merkel’s likely successor but quit soon after it appeared that the AfD had conspired with the CDU at the Thuringia regional election to elect liberal leader Thomas Kemmerich.

Mr Callahan said: “She’s seen her choices fall apart in the last two years, beginning a year-and-a-half ago with the defence minister who had that scandal with the AfD and Thuringia.”

He added that the outgoing Chancellor’s legacy might be mixed because of her decision to let in so many refugees and the subsequent fallout from the policy.

Mr Callahan concluded: “Her legacy won’t really be known for 50 years. We say in the States that a president’s legacy really isn’t known until 40 years later when the documents become unclassified.

“It’s not quite the same in Germany but it evolves, it’s about where do things end up that will determine her legacy.

“But for now, is her legacy as awesome as it would have been four or five years ago? I think no.

“But I think it’s still a positive one for Germany.”
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