Will Merkel change course?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has assumed responsibility for the CDU's disappointing performance in the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state elections. "Of course it is partly the result of the refugee policy," she said. Commentators discuss how Merkel will react and believe she may be able to make history even against the will of her own party.

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La Repubblica (IT) /

Bucking resistance and making history

Angela Merkel won't give in on the refugee issue, philosopher and Germany expert Angelo Bolaffi writes in La Repubblica:

“Will Merkal suffer the same fate as former chancellor Gerhard Schröder? He lost the 2005 elections because he was left in the lurch by his party, the SPD. ... This will become clear in the next few weeks. ... But let us not forget that all the major changes in the German postwar era - Adenauer's commitment to Western democracy, Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik, Helmut Schmidt's decision to stand up to the Soviet Union's provocative deployment of SS-20 mid-range missiles and Helmut Kohl's reunification - had one thing in common: strong opposition from within their own party and the country in general. And Merkel is convinced that integrating the refugees is a historical task on a par with these challenges mastered by her predecessors.”

Imerisia (GR) /

Athens will also feel the consequences

The AfD's success in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will also have an impact on Berlin's Greece policy, the business daily Imerisia fears:

“A deal is a deal and the government is obliged to implement it. So if we go through another dramatic autumn of delays and procrastination all we will achieve is even tougher demands being made of us and an even worse economic climate, which will have an impact on revenues. Putting an end to financial support for countries like Greece is at the top of the xenophobic AfD's agenda. So Merkel will be forced to change her position and take a harder line. On the debt issue too, it's unlikely that any difficult decisions will be made before the German elections. So the government must do all it can to close ranks before the situation deteriorates further.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

To the bitter end

Angela Merkel is putting all her eggs in one basket, Lidové noviny comments on the chancellor's reaction to the election rout in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania:

“Merkel made it clear all the way from China that she has no intention of changing her course on refugees. She believes the decisions her government has taken in the past months are right, including the controversial deal with Turkey. All of that is somewhat reminiscent of the defiance with which her predecessor Gerhard Schröder pushed through his reform of the welfare state eleven years ago. He too, overruled his party, triggering new elections in the process. No doubt cautious Merkel won't go that far. But she too is clearly determined to bet everything on one horse. Even if it means the end of her political career when election time rolls around next year.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Stick to her guns or stand down

Angela Merkel has two options in the time that remains until the German elections in autumn 2017, the Süddeutsche Zeitung explains:

“The one option is to stick to her position and carry it through to the end. … For reasons of credibility, but also because of her personal convictions, there is an upper limit on the amount of leeway Merkel has to change her refugee policy. And that limit is very low. … The other extreme alternative would be to think what has been unthinkable up to now. At the start of her term as chancellor Merkel said: 'I want to serve Germany.' If she takes this sentence seriously she must at least examine whether Germany wouldn't be better off without her. … Merkel's withdrawal would certainly be an admission that the polarizer can hardly be a reconciler. She would still deserve credit for her courageous refugee policy. With the first option Merkel would definitely have a chance of winning an election once more.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Merkel irreplaceable?

The chancellor may be under pressure politically but ultimately there is no alternative to her leadership in the CDU, the Irish Times believes:

“Party activists are worried by the growing strength of the right-wing populist AfD, and look anxiously to forthcoming lander elections. They expect her to announce at the CDU congress in December whether she will stand as party leader in next autumn’s federal elections. She brushes off suggestions this will be too late. But there is much to achieve between now and then if she wants to be sure of the nomination. ...Alternatives are scarce and equivalent competence ever rarer. It is to be hoped she is willing to stay the course and stand again.”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Established parties running out of time

Angela Merkel is falling victim to an increasingly populist style of politics, the Wiener Zeitung observes:

“The decision-making function of the political elites has considerably diminished as a result of globalisation tendencies. Yet in the public perception there is a tendency that leads us to believe that the personal style of leading politicians plays a decisive role in domestic and foreign policy. In the media's 'inflated' version of the facts it looked as if Merkel alone were making all the decisions about saving Greece or refugee policy. Populist politics has already become a widespread trend, perhaps even the dominant political style. The fundamental social change processes that developed in the wake of migration and digitization continue to expand the populists' breeding ground. The established parties are running out of time to de-escalate the situation. By the time the German elections take place in autumn 2017 Merkel may well be too much of a tough sell.”